Little-known parking rule saw dad hit with £60 fine as he warns drivers to watch out

A dad-of-two is warning the public to take note when parking in private car parks after he was slapped with a £60 fine following a change to Government guidance.

Nicholas Danton, 42, was visiting Margate for a day out with his wife Andreea and daughters Chloe, three and Olivia 18 months

He paid for four hours of parking, before deciding to extend their stay and parking permit by an hour to watch the carnival.

But Nicholas was shocked to receive a £60 penalty charge notice (PCN) in the post a few weeks later after from the Smart Parking-operated facility

Drivers were previously afforded a 10-minute ‘grace period’ to leave a car park after their ticket had ran out under the Private Parking Code of Practice, which came into effect in 2015. However, the government website shows the voluntary code of conduct was withdrawn in June, pending review.

Nicholas now wants more people to be widely aware of this change and says no signage was available to inform car park users.

He still considers his fine to be unfair as Smart Parking have started the clock from the moment he entered the car park and not when he bought his ticket.

His PCN notice letter shows he left the car park four minutes after his parking ticket had expired. Smart Parking state that he spent 310 minutes in the site having only paid for 300.

“I think the general public don’t know about this. I didn’t even know about the ten minute grace period until I appealed and I wanted knowledge to back me up. I had no idea it had been withdrawn, and people need to be aware of that.

“The ten minute grace period should return as it was. If we have to live without it, make people aware that this is the case. It’s like people are being tricked – you should know before a fine comes through your letterbox.

“Car parks should be providing signage to this effect. It needs to be visible. People will abide by the rules if they know about them. If I hadn’t paid anything all day then I would expect this.

“I appealed against that because it was unfair. They decided to uphold it because I was in the site for 10 minutes longer than I paid for. This means they’re counting the time that you enter the car park before you’ve paid – people going there for the day probably don’t realise they’re being charged as soon as they go into the park.

“It was the middle of the summer, so you can’t find a parking space straight away. I used the RingGo app to pay, which takes time to set up your bank details and so on,” he said.

Nicholas – who works as a support worker for people with learning difficulties – says the charge had spoiled what was a pleasant day out for his family. They enjoyed a trip to the beach, building sandcastles and a generous portion of fish and chips.

After his appeal was rejected by Smart Parking, he has now progressed to independent appeals body POPLA, but runs the risk of his fine increasing from £60 to £100. POPLA have extended the 14-day deadline for the fine escalation while they look into his case.

He says his experience has put him off visiting Margate again. At a time where the cost of living is on the rise, having to pay the PCN is a concern to him and his family.

“I only earn just above the minimum wage so it will be a big cost if I have to pay it. I’ll have to cut down on something to afford it.

“The main cost for us is food, so we’d have to cut out luxuries there. The bills are enough as they are because everything’s going up.

“It’s an unnecessary worry when you’ve got a family and all the bills are going up as they are. You think you’re taking your children out on a nice day out and then something like this happens,” he said.

Nicholas has also contacted Dreamland and Thanet Council without response. Smart Parking provided no comment when asked by KentLive.

The Mirror has approached Smart Parking and Thanet Council for a comment.