Private parking company refuses to change 'confusing' system at popular Milton Keynes lake

The company responsible for parking at Willen Lake has insisted its policies are fair, despite a string of complaints from the public.

By Sally Murrer
Tuesday, 19th April 2022, 12:30 pm

The Citizen receives frequent complaints from motorists who feel they have been unfairly issued with a parking fine at the popular venue.

TripAdvisor also contains numerous bad reviews from people who have enjoyed the lake and its facilities – but were puzzled to receive a parking ticket after their visit.

Last week one visitor wrote a lengthy letter to Napier Parking, pointing out why he though their system was unfair and suggesting how they could make it more user-friendly.

Willen Lake is enjoyed by many - but for some the pleasure is marred by a parking ticket

Simon Lorrimer-Roberts told the company: “I am writing to you today to try to help you to improve your parking system at this car an avoid more of the large negative reviews you have had specific to parking at Willen lake.”

He described how he arrived at the car park for the first time and, unfamiliar with the process, assumed he had to pay on arrival.

“I fully expected to pay for a couple of hours, however when I put the details in the system. I did not notice the information on the signs that I should only pay on exit.

"I think that this is because it is in the same small text with the same white background and therefore doesn’t stand out.”

The signs should be clearer, says Simon

Simon found, after entering his vehicle’s details, the machine automatically requested he pay just 50p.

“Another person came up and I asked her for help she was also in the same situation. A third person came up and she also had the same problem. I then saw another person at another machine and went to ask him and he explained it was pay on exit.

"However, I misunderstood. I thought I still needed to register my car and vehicle and then pay again on exit.”

Simon and his fellow two confused customers all paid 50p. But the snag came when he was ready to leave at the end of his visit and tried to put his details once more into the parking machine.

"The system, of course, assumed I had already paid and left. it was only when I saw there was a “continue” button, I realised I could still pay the correct fee. Therefore to make it totally clear what I was paying for, I exited the process put in my full registration and duly paid the £1 fee and then exited the car park,” he said.

Though the machine gave Simon a receipt for his second payment, it did not include his car registration number.

"I am sure the system is automated and therefore I will get a fixed penalty parking charge notice against the first ticket,” he added.

Simon checked the reviews of Willen Lake on TripAdvisor and discovered he was one of many who have wrongly assumed they had to pay on entrance instead of exit.

When the machine requests just 50p, many assume their parking is covered – only to be clocked as a non payer by the automated cameras when they leave.

"This clearly indicates that there is a lack of clarity on the process for paying for parking in this car park,” said Simon.

He has now asked Napier Parking to change the signs on the Willen Lake car parks to state more clearly that people should pay when they leave and not attempt to pay on arrival.

"It should be made more clear that you do not need to do anything until you are exiting the car park,” he said.

He has also suggested the company change the background of the text on the machines so it can be more easily read.

“People like me struggle with identifying which text is important. Changing the black on white to black on yellow for this key salient piece of information would make it easier,” he said.

Finally, Simon suggests Napier changes the receipt system so that it includes the registration number of the car being paid for.

"It would be nice if you would also refund the original incorrect payment of 50p I made - or at least give it to charity,” he said.

The Citizen put all of Simon’s points to James de Savary, the managing director Napier Parking Ltd, and asked if the company would consider making changes.

He replied: “We have no plans to change how the system works. As you know we operate this on behalf of Whitecap Leisure and a great deal of time has been taken to ensure its as fair as can be.”

He added: “There are clear signs, instructions and messaging at the payment points that make it very clear that this is a pay on exit car park. I appreciate that on busy days or if someone is not concentrating, they could miss this, however we really have done everything we can to make the user experience as clear and simple as possible.

“I should add that this gentleman was not issued with a Fixed Charge as he complied with the terms and conditions. My complaints team will be emailing him directly to inform him.

"They will also inform him that the parking fees go to Whitecap Leisure which is owned by The Parks Trust, a charity.”

Last year, the Citizen described how a grandmother won a two-year legal battle against Napier Parking. Valerie Baxter, 69, was hit with a £60 fine after visiting with her grandchildren. It rose to a whopping £268 before the company eventually agreed to drop it.