Essex

Essex dad's bid to stop supermarket parking bay abuse

Simon Harris Image copyright SIMON HARRIS
Image caption Simon Harris says people who park in the bays must have "invisible children"

A dad has launched a one-man crusade against drivers he thinks abuse parent-and-child parking bays at supermarkets.

Father-of-three Simon Harris has taken to placing flyers on the windscreens of cars he feels break the rules.

The self-styled "Man Behaving Dadly" has attracted more than 130,000 followers to his Facebook campaign.

"It's a very British way of protesting," he said. "But families need these spaces."

Mr Harris admitted he had received abuse online but said: "It's water off a duck's back. As long as it gets the message through."

What's the issue?

The 36-year-old from Hockley in Essex began his campaign after seeing a man park in a supermarket parent-and-child bay in a "heavy, modified car" without children - and wander off.

He said: "I just want more people to realise that if you wouldn't abuse a disabled space, why would you abuse a parent and child space? It's bizarre.

"If I'm out shopping and see people doing it I'll go out and flyer them, I don't really have time to spend eight hours a day patrolling around Clint Eastwood-style."

Image caption Most supermarkets do not formally police their parent-and-child bays

What is Visibility Deficiency Syndrome?

Mr Harris designed the tongue-in-cheek flyers to target those without children using the family bays, which are wider than conventional parking spaces and closer to the shop.

The flyer shows a driver leaving an empty car and states: "Got kids with Visibility Deficiency Syndrome? Support is out there. You don't need to struggle alone."

"Their children are perhaps invisible," he quipped.

One parent told the BBC the regular parking spaces can be difficult to use because they are closer together and don't have as much space either side to make it easier to get children out the car.

"I've got two kids so to get out both sides is a bit of a nightmare. People need to remember that they're there for a reason."

Image caption Mr Harris was prompted to campaign after seeing drivers without children park in the bays

Should supermarkets fine rule-breakers?

The BBC spoke to four major supermarkets about their policies but the rules around the use of parent-and-child bays are very loose.

A parking industry insider said the positioning and number of bays depends on the "demographic of the customer base" and that businesses are not legally obliged to provide them because it is private land.

Mr Harris is calling on supermarkets to "step up" and police the use of the bays - as well as their disabled spaces.

Addressing them in an online post, he wrote: "You have the authority to apply 'charges' in the same way that any private car park operator can through adequate signage and having an attendant on site, and you don't bother.

"You know full well that this member of staff would quickly pay for themselves."

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Most supermarkets do not have a strict enforcement policy

What do the supermarkets say?

Tesco employs an agency to monitor parent-and-child spaces, which are specifically for families of children 12 years and younger.

A spokesman for Sainsbury's told the BBC: "The vast majority of our customers are very considerate of parents with young children and respect family bays.

"If our parking attendants find these bays are being misused they will, in the first instance, ask the driver to move their car.

"If they refuse, they will be issued with a parking charge notice." Sainsbury's also enforces an under-12 policy.

Aldi doesn't have an official policy but it says "the parent and child parking is honoured by the majority of our customers".

Asda has no age limit for children and the bays can be used by pregnant mums, but it expects "customers to use common sense".

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