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Probe into parking at Whitlingham Country Park

PUBLISHED: 09:01 03 July 2014 | UPDATED: 09:33 03 July 2014

The barn at Whitlingham.

The barn at Whitlingham.

EDP pics © 2011

A probe has been launched into car parking at an edge-of-Norwich beauty spot after more than 1,000 people have been hit by fines.

Park without a fine:

People don’t mind paying to park to walk the dog, jog around the lake, use the education centre or have a coffee in the barn.

Many have told this newspaper if it contributes to the £250,000 cost to maintain the stunning setting that thousands enjoy each year, then it is worth it.

But the confusion over parking and fines has frustrated many who want to enjoy the Norfolk broad.

Here is the simple way to park – without any fines:

When arriving and leaving the car park, the CCTV cameras clock you.

What used to be 8am until 8pm monitoring is soon to change to 24 hours a day.

There are machines where you need to enter your registration plate and the cash for the amount of time you want to stay for. That ranges from 50p for 30 minutes, and £5 for the day.

If they are broken, go in to the barn.

If you are longer than you paid for, you can then top-up via text message, on the phone, at the barn or at other machines without a fine.

But if you leave the car park without paying the difference – you will receive a penalty notice.

South Norfolk Council wants Whitlingham Charitable Trust to fund in clearer signs at the popular park near Trowse after anger from members of the public and councillors.

Since 2007, private company Parking Eye, which is contracted to manage parking at Whitlingham Country Park, has been monitoring drivers on CCTV as they enter and leave.

Anyone who stays over the time they paid for is sent a £60 fine – or £100 if it is not paid within 14 days.

In the last financial year Whitlingham Country Park took £100,000 from the on-site machines and annual permits which go directly to the trust to manage the space.

But in the same time the parking firm, whose agreement allows it to keep cash raised from fines but not from parking fees, made £90,000 from fines alone after thousands over-stayed.

Yesterday the scrutiny committee in South Norfolk demanded the trust invested in better signs to clarify what happened if people were late back to their car - in the hope of lowering the amount of fines.

There is a rule that people can pay the extra cash if they return late to their car. But it is not widely know, and the council said this type of confusion needed to be ironed out and people needed clearer information about where their money went.

Members voted to withdraw their £10,000 grant to the trust until at least October when the committee meets again, to give it time to take their suggestions forward.

Rob Bennett, a trustee of Whitlingham Charitable Trust, said they would look for ways to improve signs.

But he stressed the importance of the cash flow from the car park to keep the broad, education centre, walking and nature areas used by 250,000 visitors each year in a good condition.

“Car parking is a valuable source of income for us,” he said. “The amount received from car parking as a trust covers management and maintenance costs. So it’s vital for us.”

But councillor Lee Hornby described £90,000 going to a private company as “completely wrong” and called for the trust to withdraw from the contract with Parking Eye.

“Because they [Parking Eye] make their income from penalties, they make it extremely difficulty for people to get out of paying,” he said.

Another option the council wants the trust to look in to is taking donations at the car park for the trust.

• Have you been affected by the situation at Whitlingham? Email rosa.mcmahon@archant.co.uk

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