Drivers call parking enforcement 'predatory' - as wardens group up over safety fears
PUBLISHED: 15:18 25 July 2019 | UPDATED: 15:18 25 July 2019
Rows over parking in Ipswich have become so heated that traffic wardens are no longer working alone - for their own safety.
Motorists issued with tickets by a firm called Secure A Space say they are taking a stand against "overzealous" enforcement in Tye Road, off Duke Street, and urging others to fight back if they feel unfairly targeted.
Levent Caglayan, 49, who owns Express Kebab in the street, and Lisa Hutton, who was issued with a ticket after pulling up for a few minutes, both had £100 fines overturned - and accused the company of making life difficult for businesses and visitors.
But Secure A Space said its work was necessary to ensure access to parking spaces and there were clear signs informing drivers of the rules.
It said the risk of confrontation meant the area could no longer be patrolled by attendants working alone.
Community leaders say parking problems in the area, which is privately managed, go back years.
Father-of-three Mr Caglayan became aware of the problem when he opened the kebab shop in 2015, claiming tickets were often given to customers, delivery drivers and staff.
Although he and colleagues had been issued parking permits by Home From Home, the management company in charge of the area, Mr Caglayan said there were often no spaces available and so staff would stop in the road, when visiting the shop. He said parking attendants would "seize any opportunity" to issue tickets. Mr Caglayan also claims his takings had been hit, as customers feared fines.
Relations worsened two years ago when the parking firm put up warning notices on the shop wall, which Mr Caglayan removed.
"I said I have a business here," he said. "I pay all these bills, I pay business rates, I've got seven staff to pay but you're here hurting my customers and hurting my staff."
Mr Caglayan claims the parking problems could be resolved if spaces were allocated, rather than the current free for all.
After being issued with his latest ticket, Mr Caglayan said he decided to take a stand and refused to pay. He received letters from a debt management company and was taken to Ipswich county court, where the judge ruled in his favour.
Mrs Hutton, meanwhile, contested her ticket through Parking on Private Land Appeals (POPLA) ombudsman.
She had pulled into Tye Road while her husband visited Tesco in Duke Street. Cameras showed she was in the road for six minutes and never left her vehicle. But she received a letter from a debt company saying she owed Secure a Space for an unpaid fine.
"I was quite angry and upset because I didn't expect automatic number plate recognition technology to be used to get my details," she said. "They didn't even contact me - they sent it straight to the debt agency."
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Mrs Hutton's appeal was first refused by Secure A Space. However POPLA ruled in her favour, saying the operator had not demonstrated signs were sufficiently visible.
"Some people will just pay the fine but I knew I was in the right," she said. "This kind of thing is not good for any area and it's put me off going there. I drive past every day but if I see the spaces in Duke Street are full, there's no way I'll go up Tye Road again"
When this newspaper visited the area, people raised similar concerns. One woman, who was parked waiting for her partner said the situation was "ridiculous". Another man said his sister had been ticketed recently while shopping in Tesco. "It needs sorting out," he said.
Secure A Space's online reviews feature further complaints about alleged "predatory practices".
Liz Harsant, borough councillor for the Holywells ward, said she had been made aware of the problem in the past when drivers parking in Tye Road to visit Tesco received "whopping great fines".
Ipswich Borough Council said it occasionally received complaints about private enforcement firms which operated in the town. "As these areas are private land, the council has no jurisdiction over these areas or the enforcement companies that are contracted," a spokesman said.
Edward Ottley, director of Home from Home, said the problems arose because the parking rules were incompatible with a takeaway business. "Essentially, they've put their business in the wrong place," he said.
Mr Ottley also said parking officers faced "very aggressive behaviour", which is why Secure A Space had been brought in.
Firm says drivers park in middle of road
Secure A Space said enforcement ensured residents could access parking and there were clear signs around the site to inform drivers of the rules.
The company said that while permits had been provided to those entitled to park in bays, no parking was allowed in the middle of the road. It said the frequency of cars parked in the road, possibly connected to businesses, had required CCTV to be used to enforce parking amid safety concerns.
"This area could no longer be patrolled by attendants due to safety concerns and the risk of confrontation and assaults when lone working," the company added. It said Mr Caglayan ignored letters leaving no option but to take legal action.
Secure A Space said it would be challenging the decision in Mrs Hutton's case, which it claimed was based on a "procedural error". It added most parking fines in this location were issued by an authorised agent by post, as stated on signs, and were compliant with regulations.