Charity volunteers appeal to parking company to drop penalty charge incurred during fundraising mission

Andrew Blacker who was fined for parking too long at Beardmore Park in Martlesham Heath while collec

Andrew Blacker who was fined for parking too long at Beardmore Park in Martlesham Heath while collecting money for Suffolk Help in Multiple Sclerosis.

A “magnificent” fundraising effort by disabled Multiple Sclerosis volunteers has turned sour after they were fined for staying in a free car park near Ipswich.

But they are still hoping a parking company’s officials can find it in their hearts to waive the £50 penalties, after the group unknowingly exceeded a three-hour parking limit.

Andrew Blacker was with friends from SHIMS (Suffolk Help in Multiple Sclerosis) at Marks and Spencer on Martlesham Heath Retail Park promoting the charity, a self-help support group for people living with MS in Ipswich.

“We’d agreed with M&S that we would do an event. The idea was just to raise awareness and get money as a boost,” Mr Blacker, chairman of the charity, said.

From 7.50am until 5.30pm on August 29 Mr Blacker spoke to shoppers about the charity and MS, and collected £253 of donations with the help of friends who turned up during the day.

All of them have MS themselves and used their blue badges to park in the disabled bays near the store.

“It was magnificent, £253 is magnificent for a store collection,” Mr Blacker, aged 51, said. “We spoke to a lot of people about MS and raised awareness of the charity.”

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But despite the success on the day Mr Blacker was shocked to find out he had been penalised for parking outside the store by car park managers Euro Car Parks.

While the car park, which serves a number of shops on the retail park, is free to park on there is a three hour time limit enforced by numberplate recognition cameras.

Mr Blacker, who was diagnosed with MS in 1994, said everyone realised it was not a pay and display car park but had not seen signs about the time limit.

He said: “I was really frustrated by it. We were all very disappointed and shocked because we hadn’t considered that.”

Mr Blacker and others from SHIMS who had received penalty notices appealed the decision but found out yesterday these had been rejected.

They each have to pay £90 but this is reduced to £50 if they pay within 14 days.

“I hoped they would be charitable and not make us pay the fine but I was not particularly surprised,” Mr Blacker said of the decision.

Euro Car Parks declined the opportunity to comment.