Anger over fines as new parking charge regime launched at car park near Haven Point in South Shields
Council chiefs have been accused of getting in deep over changes to charging times at a car park which it is claimed have left early morning swimmers in South Tyneside with fines.
The parking payment period at the 60-space Pier Parade, the car park closest to Haven Point leisure centre in South Shields, has been slammed for bringing forward by 90 minutes the parking pay period.
Pool user Colin Campbell says elderly swimmers have been hit with penalty charges, with one lady reduced to tears after returning to her car to find it ticketed.
Since the £16m Haven Point opened in 2013, the car parking meter kicked in at 9.30am, meaning early bird centre users could enjoy facilities without having to pay to park.
But on Monday, May 20, the council brought enforcement forward to 8am.
Mr Campbell claims South Tyneside Council has failed to properly alert drivers to the new pay policy, meaning few knew of the regulations switch.
But the council says it has taken measures to alert motorists – but admits it has yet to install new main signage.
Landlord Mr Campbell, of Cleadon Meadows, Cleadon, said: “The pool users before 9.30am are predominately pensioners, some with mobility problems but all trying to keep fit and healthy.
“The council has only placed one small sign about the pay change on the actual ticket machine and nothing at the entrance – people who have never had to pay had no way of knowing that they now have to.
“They had no reason to check the machine, since they had never before had to pay at that time of the day.
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“I saw one lady standing in tears at the parking machine after leaving the pool to find a ticket on her car. It was the first she knew that she had to pay, she was very upset.”
Mr Campbell, chief executive of the South Tyneside Landlords Association, added: “I don’t know why the council has had to meddle with the parking times.
“In my opinion, it’s just an unnecessary cash grab from people who just want to enjoy the leisure facilities.
“Someone has taken it upon themselves to spray paint the new parking times on the ground in the car park. It’s really the only way the unwary would know they now have to pay.”
South Tyneside Council said three motorists had been fined at Pier Parade during the new parking charge time.
A spokeswomen insisted the authority had taken measures to make residents and visitors aware that changes were imminent.
She added: “On March 19 a press release was issued informing residents about the changes. Public notices advising of the plans were displayed at the locations between March 29 and April 19.
“From May 17, one the new notices were displayed once the Traffic Regulation Order had been made.
“Signs have been amended with the new tariffs and operational times and we are awaiting the delivery of new signage.
“For the first seven days after the changes came into effect, we issued warning notices to anyone breaching the regulations; no penalty notices were issued. Anyone breaching the regulations after this period will have been issued with a penalty notice.”