Fury over fast food parking tickets

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DRIVERS using a McDonalds restaurant found a burger and fries cost more than they had bargained.

The Gazette has been inundated with calls over the last week from motorists hit by fines upto £100 after visiting the fast food giant’s outlet on Amy Johnson Way, South Shore.

A private parking company – tasked with making sure diners do not overstay their welcome – issued fines for:

- Using the drive-thru twice in one day.

- Parking in the car park for 24 hours when in fact the driver had visited on two separate days.

- Staying too long – even though the diner was still in the restaurant enjoying a meal.

Blackpool Council’s Trading Standards team today said they had received a “flood” of similar complaints from angry drivers using McDonalds and other fast food outlets.

And they today advised motorists to challenge the fines if sent one through the post.

The fines are being issued by UK Parking Control Ltd who monitor CCTV systems in a bid to find cars left too long on car parks.

But many drivers believe they have been targeted unfairly.

Kathryn Scholes, 35, from Stony Hill Avenue, South Shore, was sent a £50 fine through the post after she visited McDonalds with a friend and three children.

She stayed for two hours and 10 minutes.

The nursery assistant fumed: “I can understand people parking their cars and leaving to go shopping being fined, but I’m paying for my food and didn’t leave the restaurant.

“I think it’s scandalous and people should be warned about this.”

CCTV cameras are placed on the entrance and exit of the car park and take pictures of drivers when they come and go to calculate how long they have stayed.

But a woman from South Shore, who does not wish to be named, says she received a £100 fine in the post after visiting the drive-thru twice in one day.

She said: “I got a shock when I received a fine with a photograph of me driving the car.

“All I did was drive in, I didn’t even eat anything myself, it just so happened that I went twice within a few hours and the notice suggested I had been parked there all that time.”

Another customer was fined after the CCTV system believed him to have parked his car for more than 20 hours.

The office worker said: “It was a big shock when I opened the letter because I had only been there a couple of minutes each time.”

McDonalds today apologised.

A spokesman for the fast food outlet said: “The restrictions were put in place because of problems we were experiencing ranging from minicab drivers using our car parks as waiting bays between fares, to people leaving their cars for several hours while they went on shopping trips or used the nearby airport.

“In each of the restaurants where parking restrictions are necessary, we try to make the parking policy fair, but it’s clear that it’s not always perfect, for which we are sorry.

“It is never our intention for genuine customers to be charged.

“Customers are welcome to spend as long as they need in our restaurants but if their stay will exceed the stated maximum parking time, they just need to let us know their registration details so that we can ensure they don’t receive a parking charge.”

Blackpool Council officers said they had received complaints from McDonalds’ customers as well as those who had visited other, as yet, unnamed retail outlets.

One driver was fined after he stopped for a matter of minutes to buy a ticket for a Blackpool car wash, while another was charged when he stopped to ask for directions on the forecourt of another fast food outlet.

Trading Standards officer Catriona Bright said: “Privately issued parking fines are civil matters – not criminal, and you will never be prosecuted for non-payment.

“You could be pursued via the small claims courts if the company was able to prove their case against you, and that you were driving the car at the time.

“But this will not necessarily lead to a CCJ and certainly not a criminal conviction.”

UK Parking Control Ltd were unavailable for comment.