40% of Northern Ireland parking fine appeals successful

By Richard Morgan
BBC NI reporter

  • Published

Forty per cent of Northern Ireland parking fines appealed to an ombudsman since last spring have been successful, figures released to BBC Newsline show.

The Parking on Private Land Appeals (POPLA) has been taking appeals from NI motorists since May.

It has received 190 appeals - 40% of which have been successful.

Fines issued by private parking companies are not enforceable by the police or local authorities.

The companies operate throughout Northern Ireland at sites including shopping centres and retail parks.

They can issue a ticket a called a parking charge notice - which is technically an invoice - for what they deem to be a breach of their parking contract.

Among those appealing fines are Londonderry man Alan - a clerical error left him with thousands of pounds worth of fines.

Image caption,
Alan was issued a £13,000 fine due to a clerical error

His company rents a parking space from a company called Smart Parking.

After getting a new car, his registration was initially incorrect on their systems.

His company rectified the mistake - and continued to pay for his parking space - but the fines kept coming.

"Whenever I contacted them, because my car was about to get clamped at the time, they informed me there was a fine outstanding of £13,000," he said.

"I can't even see how they would legitimately allow a bill to get to that level without any due diligence, without any comeback to go to the landlord, go to the companies that park there and say 'look somebody's accruing a large amount of money'."

The Consumer Council has since told BBC News NI that Alan's fines have been resolved.

Des Brown parked at a car park off Belfast's Ormeau Road last December.

Image caption,
Des Brown said he entered his car registration, but the machine printed just a single letter of it

He says he entered his car registration, but the machine printed just a single letter of it.

Smart Parking, which manages the site and monitors it using cameras, issued him with a £60 fine.

He is still trying to appeal the fine which has since gone up to £170.

Mr Brown is now receiving letters from a debt recovery company.

"Very surprised, I displayed my ticket on the dashboard of the car as you would normally do on any pay and display and I just assumed it was a clerical error," he said.

"The bit that I find hard to take is that I'm able to prove that I've more than sufficiently paid for the time I spent in the car park.

Image caption,
Mr Brown said he had been fined despite the fact he could prove he had paid to stay in the car park

"There's an issue over the ticket, but Smart Parking are refusing to marry the ticket that I purchased to my vehicle registration."

Craig Ineson of the Parking on Private Land Appeals (POPLA) service said: "A tremendous number of what we see does revolve around certain themes which is signage not being adequate or, indeed, motorists who have paid and maybe not entered the correct registration."

POPLA, which is run by Ombudsman Services, says that anyone who receives a fine should not ignore it.

Newsline made several attempts to contact Smart Parking but have so far received no response.