'Shameful' parking tickets for vulnerable shoppers criticised

By Sam Francis
BBC News, London

Parking ticketsImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The RAC's Head of Roads Policy said: "This is part of a wider problem of people reporting overzealous enforcement,"

Private car parks have been criticised for handing out penalty notices to vulnerable shoppers during the coronavirus outbreak.

Norma Sinclair, 88, got a £70 charge for overstaying in a priority shopping time for older customers at Sainsbury's in Stanmore, north west London.

"I thought it was an absolute cheek, I was late because the queues were 45 minutes long", she told the BBC.

Euro Car Parks, which runs the car park, has been contacted for a comment.

But since publication of this story the parking penalty has been withdrawn.

Sainsbury's and other supermarkets set up priority morning shopping slots for older customers after panic-buying led to stock of some goods running out.

Mrs Sinclair, from Edgware, said her shopping trip took longer than normal because of large crowds attending the session for elderly customers on 19 March.

Image source, Norma Sinclair
Image caption,
Norma Sinclair said it was "an absolute cheek" that she received a parking charge.

She only became aware of the charge when it arrived in the post a week later.

The notice showed she had stayed five minutes longer than the two-hour free parking limit. Sainsbury's has since cancelled all parking charges.

"I was doing a big shop so I could stay indoors and protect myself for the next two weeks," Mrs Sinclair said.

"I thought what a nerve to give it at a time like this."

The RAC's Head of Roads Policy Nicholas Lyes said: "This is part of a wider problem of people reporting overzealous enforcement.

"Even in instances where drivers feel hard done by, they don't want the hassle and the threat of further action against them, so they simply pay up to avoid the stress.

"Trips to the supermarkets are taking longer as retailers implement social distancing measures for everybody's safety and well-being.

"Of course, they need to ensure there are enough parking spaces to go around but to be ticketing vulnerable customers when matters are clearly outside of their control is frankly quite shameful."

The British Parking Association, the trade body for car park management firms, said it had a "clear expectation in these circumstances" that a penalty charge notice should be cancelled.