Petition demands removal of CCTV cameras in Earlham House Shopping Centre
PUBLISHED: 08:51 27 June 2016 | UPDATED: 09:09 27 June 2016
It is an issue that traders claim is causing some customers to give up visiting their shops in fear of getting financially penalised.
Almost £700 in charges for 85-year-old woman
Over the past two years, disabled former teacher Wendy Newton-Fenbow has been caught out no fewer than five times. The 85-year-old, who is a blue badge holder, claims her tickets have been unfairly issued by NPE and is now refusing to pay them.
She has received letters from the company demanding £698.
Her charges range from one of her car wheels being on a white parking space line, to claims that her disabled badge was not properly displayed on her dashboard.
Mrs Newton-Fenbow, who lives on Earlham Road, said: “The first one I received was on the first day they put them [the CCTV cameras] in.
“I parked in my usual space and had gone to the charity shop to pick up a cupboard. I was gone for three minutes, but when I got down I had a ticket.”
Because she has refused to pay the charges within the 14-day period, all but one of them has now increased to more than £100.
“I am not paying £80 for parking one wheel on a white line, it is just nonsense,” she said.
“And I always have my [blue badge] card on my dashboard.
“I was a bit worried when I got two in one day, but I went down to one of the shop owners and they have given me marvellous support.”
Mrs Newton-Fenbow lacerated her leg in a car accident and has to drive to get her food shopping.
“I think a lot of people are going elsewhere now,” she added.
For the past three years, parking at Earlham House Shopping Centre, in Norwich, has been monitored by National Parking Enforcement (NPE). But business owners operating there say the private contractor is too “heavy-handed” in its issuing of parking violation charges, and a petition has been started calling for action.
They say it has driven numerous customers away from the centre, off Earlham Road, which is home to a handful of independent businesses and charity shops. And they have now launched a petition to bring the issue to the attention of the owners Bellgold Properties Ltd.
Norwich South MP Clive Lewis is also in process of writing to the company to address the problem.
Richard Bray, who has owned RJ Bray Butchers for the past 24 years, believed he has lost between 40 to 50 customers because of it.
He said: “It is a good idea in principle, but unfortunately the way it is being managed is a bit heavy-handed. It has certainly affected footfall, and I have had a number of customers come in and have a right go at me about it, but I can’t do anything.”
Shoppers claim they have been hit with £60 to £80 charges for a variety of what they describe as “minor” offences.
These include car tyres touching the white space lines or for stopping briefly to drop off items.
Violations at the car park are picked up on two CCTV cameras operated by NPE. A spokesman for the company stressed that it was not responsible for deciding the parking restrictions in the area.
“These were requested by Bellgold Properties and we are not in a position to make changes without their consent,” the spokesman added.
Bellgold Properties did not wish to comment despite multiple requests from this newspaper.
The issue has led to Mr Lewis steping in to take action against the company.
He said: “It is really disappointing to see a much valued shopping area being put under threat in a way like this.
“It has been historically difficult to get quality businesses to fill the tenancies in the area.
“And now this kind of over-zealous action by a parking enforcement company is jeopardising all that good work.”
An online petition launched by Norwich Green Party councillor Denise Carlo also calls for NPE and Bellgold Properties to remove the CCTV parking cameras.
Instead it asks for both companies to adopt a more “reasonable” approach to the issue.
Around 180 people have so far signed it.
Notices around the car park indicate that shoppers can use the car park for free for two hours.
It states that the entire vehicle must be within the white line, and those that violate the rules face a £100 charge.
That sum is reduced to £60 if it is paid within 14 days.
NPE previously stated less than 0.3pc of the 12,740 vehicles which use the car park each month breached parking terms and conditions – the majority for parking in disabled bays without displaying blue badges.
Do you know of a local issue affecting people in your area? Call Luke Powell on 01603 772684