Furious residents in fight against 'money-making' parking scheme at Preesall storage company
A scheme issuing parking charge notices to vehicles briefly stopping for seconds outside a company on a Preesall lane has infuriated residents, who have vowed to boycott the firm.
Sloanes Self Storage, on Park Lane in Preesall, introduced "no stopping or parking" signs on a small lay-by next to its entrance in 2017, monitored by a CCTV camera with "ANPR capabilities" to issue parking charge notices (PCNs) of £100 to anyone flouting the rules.
Owner Beverly Sloane said she implemented the parking policy, operated by her son Matthew Wild's company Parking Awareness, as a "last resort."
Residents from across the Fylde coast have now come together to fight the "unfair" policy, which was also dubbed a "money-making scheme" by a Lancashire County Councillor.
But Matthew Wild of Parking Awareness said the police had been contacted as a result of the "outcry" and "crusade" against Sloanes from locals, and criminal damage was reported after his camera was "caught on video being ripped down."
Lancashire Police confirmed that "malicious communication" had been reported.
In defence of her business, Ms Sloane explained: "I was in the fortunate position of having a family member who was already running a successful parking business for the past eight years.
"Contracting Parking Awareness to administer the area using CCTV was the last resort having tried to display "no parking" signs, approaching people politely asking them not to park, and cones which were moved, run over or taken.
"Vehicles stopping or parking in front of the premises makes access to the site difficult and has on many occasions obstructed the entrance.
"I have found it very upsetting and sad, and was also amazed that social media should be used as an avenue to voice public opinion in this way."
Ms Sloane added that she understood the frustration of those who had received a PCN, but was left with no choice and felt equally as frustrated when access was compromised due to vehicles obstructing the entrance.
Many residents were concerned that by using her son's company, Ms Sloane was running the parking scheme to enable her family to profit from PCNs issued, which Ms Sloane admitted was "nearly 100 tickets so far this month."
She refuted the claims, and said the partnership with her son's parking firm was a "business arrangement."
James Asquith, 44, from Poulton, received a PCN from the firm, which he called a "complete scam," in August after his car engine cut out on Park Lane with his daughter in the passenger seat, forcing him to pull over at Sloanes' entrance.
After an appeal against the PCN was rejected by Parking Awareness the day after it was submitted, it was escalated to the Independent Appeal Service, who threw it out as a result of Parking Awareness' failure to "their Prima Facie Case on time.”
Mr Asquith said: "I lost power in my car, and was looking for somewhere to pull over, that was the only place.
"I was there for less than a minute. I didn't even see the sign on the fence because I was trying to get my car running again. How can you justify nobody stopping there?"
Emma Smith, 32, from Bispham, received a PCN earlier this month after she performed a three-point turn in the lay-by monitored by Parking Awareness' camera.
Emma said: "I was following the sat-nav to visit a neighbouring business to drop something off from my own business.
"I missed a turning, so the sat-nav told us to do a u-turn. We received a PCN despite the car never being still, the engine was running and we were turning round.
"I wasn't given any time to read the signs, because there was traffic in the road and I was concentrating on pulling out."
Rachel Ratcliffe from Preesall was issued with a PCN after pulling over for 41 seconds to find a contact number for Sloanes with the intention of using its services, as it was "always closed."
After appealing, Rachel was sent a letter from Parking Awareness agreeing to cancel the PCN, stating: "We have contacted our client who have [sic] confirmed that you were a potential customer enquiring about their services.
"Due to that we're happy to accept your appeal and cancel your issued PCN. Thank you for your understanding on this matter about why the parking enforcement is in use."
Despite the cancellation, Mrs Ratcliffe said she was "furious" that she had to appeal, and was concerned for "other people who have had this for weeks."
"I didn't even notice the signs, I parked up so I could try to find a number for them so I was looking up at the company sign, these parking signs small and lower down," she said.
"I was furious, it's so wrong. I may be sorted now, but other people have had to go through this for weeks, it's completely unfair."
Another Preesall resident has now taken the matter into her own hands by collecting PCNs issued by Parking Awareness with the intention of fighting them on behalf of recipients.
Leanne Murray, 50, said she got a PCN during floods Over Wyre late last year, after she helped an elderly couple stuck in the mud.
Now she has vowed to put an end to the parking scheme, which she deemed to be run for "the profit of the family."
"This isn't just about parking, this is something that is morally bankrupt. It's taking advantage of people in a community, and there are no proper processes in place to appeal tickets even three seconds long," Mrs Murray said.
"I've noticed now they've taken their camera down too.
"For the people of Knott End, Preesall and surrounding areas, this is just a complete injustice. The sheer volume of people who have had a ticket is massive, and we can't allow it to continue."
Mrs Murray also raised concerns about advertising signs used outside the business, and plants being sold on the forecourt, for which planning applications from October 2019 are still pending approval by Wyre Council.
The council said it would wait for the decision on the outstanding applications, and issue an enforcement notice if the signs were deemed to cause harm to the visual amenity or highway safety of the area.
Coun Matthew Salter, Lancashire County Councillor for Wyre Rural Central, also slammed Sloanes Self Storage for its "disgraceful" approach towards motorists.
He said: "I think the approach being taken towards people who stop outside Sloanes is disgraceful. It seems to be being run as a money making scheme with no allowance given for people who have pulled over for mere seconds. It also seems to be the case that despite many people appealing almost no one has been successful.
"From a traffic perspective, as clearly no one is able to stop even briefly in the Sloanes lay-by, I would urge everyone to be considerate to other road users and give other drivers time to find somewhere else to pull over, if needs be.
"Hopefully the people operating this parking scheme will see sense soon."
Echoing Coun Salter, Wyre councillor for Preesall Coun Paul Moon said: "I understand the reason for Sloanes Self Storage to adopt their policy of parking enforcement but I do feel it is a little heavy handed, and that a more flexible approach to the temporary parking issues at this location would be very appreciated by road users.
"It would alleviate the need for expensive legal actions. A little common sense is all that's needed."
Matthew Wild, director of Parking Awareness, said his scheme wasn't personal, and his business was in operation to help its clients.
In response to the concerns of the Over Wyre community, Mr Wild said: "We didn't take the camera down, it was ripped down.
"When a vehicle parks up we look to see the reason why. If they can provide evidence when they appeal a PCN, it gets cancelled.
"We have to give adequate notice for someone to decide if they want to stay on site or not. If we see someone park up, look at the signs and then drive off, we don't issue a ticket.
"One of the conditions of being on the road is that you're aware of your surroundings, and being ignorant to your surroundings isn't a defence I'm afraid.
"Grace periods only really apply to paid for parking, they don't apply to this sort of parking. One thing we wish more people did is provide evidence to support their claims.
"When businesses have land that gets abused, and they've taken steps but people ignore them, sadly that's when we have to get involved.
"People can drive down the road, but they need to pay attention to their surroundings, and people don't do that or they feel they're so entitled they don't need to.
"That's a problem that we tend to find in the parking industry."
Parking Awareness is a member of the International Parking Community (IPC), whose Code of Practice states: "Motorists must be allowed a sufficient consideration period so they may make an informed decision as to whether or not to enter or remain on the private land. If a motorist chooses to reject the opportunity by entering or remaining on the private land without reading terms and conditions, they may be deemed to have accepted them immediately.
"A grace period is not required when the permitted period of parking does not exceed 1 hour providing that the signage on the site makes it clear to the motorist, in a prominent font, that no grace period applies on that land."
The IPC was contacted for a comment about its policies on the private land at Sloanes Self Storage.
Parking Awareness issues PCNs to anybody caught on camera outside the entrance using a CCTV camera, which is now under investigation by Wyre Council for operating without planning permission.
A spokesman for Wyre Council said: "The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015 (as amended) allows the installation of CCTV cameras “on a building” and “to be used for security purposes”.
"This camera is not on a building and as it includes an ANPR element we do not consider that its primary use is for security purposes. It is therefore not exempt from needing planning permission.
"The pole and camera need planning permission as it is not a permitted development.
"We will determine firstly whether the advertising signs displayed need consent (and if they are subject to an application we will await the decision on the application) and then determine whether the signs cause harm (either to visual amenity or highway safety) as we can take enforcement action to secure their removal if they are deemed to cause harm.
"We will be investigating this now, in terms of the planning permission required."
The investigation comes after Mr Wild said his "CCTV camera with ANPR capabilities" required no planning permission.
Member of Parliament for Preesall Cat Smith, and The Information Commissioner's Office were also contacted by the Gazette.