Parking company accused of operating a 'mafia-style protection racket'
PUBLISHED: 14:17 13 December 2018 | UPDATED: 13:57 18 December 2018
A commercial parking enforcement company has been criticised for fining lorry drivers trying to serve customers at a distribution park - with claims it is being "unethical" and operating a "mafia-style protection racket".
More than 30 UK road hauliers have expressed concerns about the operations of Proserve, based at Great Blakenham and run by Steven and Karen Duff.
Andrew Stewart, director of trucking company AS London Express Transport, claimed Proserve has issued more than £3million worth of trespass notices to road haulage companies delivering and collecting goods from Trinity Park Felixstowe and Ransomes EuroPark Ipswich in the last six years.
Mr Stewart’s own company has received around 102 trespass notices in the last four years at £250 each, amounting to £25,500 - which it has refused to pay.
Another of the affected companies is Hemisphere Freight, a haulage firm based in White House Road.
Warehouse operations and health and safety manager Craig Perrin claimed one of its drivers was issued with a £250 parking fine for stopping for 90secs when there were no parking spaces available.
“The driver called our office and we told him to drive on, but he was caught on camera stopping,” Mr Perrin said.
“We spoke to Proserve and explained that he had moved on of his own accord, but were told we had no choice but to pay it. It’s completely unreasonable and we haven’t paid it out of principle.”
Hemisphere Freight and AS London Express Transport say they have both been banned from using roads at Trinity Estate and are hit with a £250 fine every time they enter.
“We now have about 50 fines, so it’s quite substantial,” said Mr Perrin.
“The businesses from the estate are still asking us to come in and collect goods, so we try to do what we can to collect cargo.”
Mr Perrin warns that if the situation continues it will affect the business, which currently employs 130 people, and could “lead to unemployment”.
The haulage companies’ grievances are supported by Dr Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, who raised the issue in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
During the parliamentary debate, he said: “There are also disturbing stories from a number of haulage companies which tell me that Proserve has told them that it will ‘go easy on them’ if they pay it an annual fee.
“In effect, Proserve is asking hauliers to bribe it to stop handing out unethical fines. Companies that do not pay the fee find themselves receiving more attention from Proserve, which then increases the number of fines and trespass notices.
“Proserve seems to be operating what is, in effect, a mafia-style protection racket which penalises hauliers who refuse to comply.”
Proserve is backed by the Trinity Park estate managers Bidwells, which is employed by Trinity College Cambridge that owns much of the land around Felixstowe Port.
Mr Poulter also claimed during the debate that Bidwells “appears to stand by” Proserve’s enforcement notices and practices, and Trinity College “does not even want to know what is happening”.
The MP continued: “It has refused to engage with hauliers who have raised concerns with it.”
The lorry drivers have the support of the Road Haulage Association and the Freight Transport Association.
Another local haulage firm, Magnus Group, based in Great Blakenham near Ipswich, has paid in excess of £7,000 in fines over the past six years, issued by Proserve for both Ransomes industrial park in Ipswich and Trinity Distribution Park in Felixstowe.
Proserve decline to comment when approached.