A short while back I won an argument with a car parking firm who wanted £90 for alleged parking at a motorway service area. Here was their rather frightening Charge Notice dated 17 August:
As you can see, they had photographed Fiona entering and leaving the Medway Services on the north side of the M2 in Kent. The time difference was five and a half hours, and they had assumed that I'd been parked there throughout. In fact I'd been visiting my cousin nearby, parking exactly as in this shot, taken earlier in the year:
The small gold-coloured car to the right of Fiona is my cousin's car, and used to be my Dad's. She bought it from the Estate that I administered after Dad died in 2009. I always take great pleasure in the thought that Dad (in a sense) lives on in this way. His car is still low-mileage, and perfect for my cousin.
I sent a letter to CP Plus, appealing against the charge. I pointed out that, unusually, both sides of the Medway Services featured a section of road that linked the service area to the local road network. These were much-used local short cuts to and from the motorway. I had simply made use of the one on the north side. I had not parked, and in fact had not needed to stop at all. I had arrived from the London direction, taken the link road, spent all the time with my cousin, and then, later on, had re-entered the service area using the same link road as before, driving out onto the motorway towards Canterbury, and turning off at the first exit (for Maidstone, and eventually home).
I reckoned I might have a fight on my hands, getting them to accept this. It was very worrying. Internet research suggested that the affair could drag on for months. The early stages might not even see human intervention on their side, so that despite appealing I could get final demands and threats of court action. They might or might not back off. I revisited Medway Services, took many photographs, studied the displayed terms and conditions for parking, and got my cousin to write me a letter confirming that I had parked at her house. All in readiness for a big battle, perhaps even a day in court.
And then, a sweet victory. They sent me a very polite letter ageeing that no further action was needed:
I was delighted to get this, and very relieved. But also surprised. My appeal letter must have been more eloquent than I supposed! Well, it just shows that it pays to resist, and not simply pay up. Provided, of course, that your resistance is just and reasonable.
Needless to say, I am not going to use either of these local shortcuts again. I don't want a repeat of this hassle! But coming off the motorway at the 'correct' point, and driving to my cousin's from there, will add six miles to my overall journey every time. It was a very good and useful shortcut indeed. Never mind.