Grandmother wins 'relentless' two-year battle over parking ticket issued at Willen Lake in Milton Keynes
A gran who launched a David and Goliath battle against Napier Parking is finally celebrating a victory
But already the company, Napier Parking, has warned other people visiting Willen Lake that this case does NOT set a legal precedent for them to challenge their parking tickets.
Valerie Baxter, 69, was issued with a ticket in September 2018 after she parked in the south car park at the lake while on a day out with her grandchildren.
She paid for the correct ticket from the machine but forgot to display it in the window as her grandson suddenly ran off and she had to chase after him.
She attempted to explained to Napier what had happened, sending them her purchased ticket, but says she was offered little sympathy and hit with a £60 fine.
It eventually rose to £268 after she ignored the series of letters and refused to pay multiple times. Napier then referred the case to a firm of solicitors.
Valerie, who lives in Hodge Lea, said: "Every time a letter came through the door I felt like I was being hounded. Even during lockdown the letters were demanding I pay this money otherwise they will serve a County Court Judgement to me. I just dreaded constant letters.
"They don't give up in the hope that in the end you will just give up. It's relentless. My mum died and I was still fighting it. I didn't need it."
After some research, Valerie found a Facebook group called Private Parking Tickets - Help and Advice, which offers free support to those in Milton Keynes fighting parking penalties.
With their help, she prepared her defence for a County Court hearing and in October last year, after a 20 minute hearing, the judge ruled in her favour and said she did not have to pay the fine.
But days later Valerie received a letter from the solicitors saying they were challenging the judge's decision. She was forced to wait another nail-biting three months until their case could be heard.
Last week, Valerie finally heard the company's bid had been rejected.
"It has cost them in excess of £250 to appeal, plus all their legal fees for the past two and a half years - all for a £2 parking ticket!" she said.
Napier Parking runs the Willen Lake car parks on behalf of The Parks Trust. The south car park is Pay and Display, while the Willen Lake North Car Park operates by ANPR. Revenue from parking tariffs goes back to Parks Trust and towards the upkeep of the facilities, lake, and parkland.
The Citizen receives regular complaints from people who feel they have been unfairly issued with a ticket for parking at the popular beauty spot. Many feel parking tickets should not be enforced as is it private land.
A Napier spokesman told the Citizen Valerie won due to a legal loophole and insist her case does not set a legal precedent as it was heard as a small claims matter in the County Court.
He said: "The rules of evidence in small claims matters are informal and strictly speaking, in our view, Napier’s agreement with the landowner is not relevant in relation to a motorist who parks on private land.
"The judge dismissed the claim because we did not enclose the site plan and evidence that the tariff was agreed with the landowner when it was within our control to do so – this does not imply that we do not have the right to occupy the land and/or implement and enforce a parking management scheme. It would be completely false and misleading to state otherwise."
He added: "We have remedied the position going forward so the courts have all the evidence before them in respect of the above, however, in the instant case the appeal judge simply felt that the lower court judge could not be criticised for drawing inferences based on what evidence was before him at the original hearing.
"There was no appeal hearing and Napier could have pushed for one had we desired. We have just accepted that in future cases the missing information will be provided in future hearings, it had never been needed in any past court hearings relating to this location."
The spokesman concluded: "In light of the above, we would expect any users of our car parks to ensure that they fully familiarise themselves with the terms and conditions of parking and comply with the same to avoid being liable for a Fixed Charge Notice."
Napier Parking Ltd operates across the UK and supervises millions of vehicles every year.
All motorists who are subject to enforcement action and receive a Fixed Charge Notice (more commonly called a Parking Charge Notice) have the right of an appeal and the ability to appeal to the Independent Appeals Service (www.theias.org) which is a certified Alternative Dispute Resolution entity.
The Napier spokesman said: "Unfortunately, it is necessary to take court action against a small minority of motorist who fail to pay our Fixed Charges when due. Taking court action is a last resort but is necessary to ensure the effective management of our parking schemes and our clients' private land is respected."