Stephen Metcalfe, Member of Parliament for South Basildon and East Thurrock, has today expressed his anger at the way Smart Parking UK are operating the Westgate Carpark in Basildon and raised the issue on the floor of the House of Commons.
During Business, Environment and Industrial Strategy Questions, Stephen highlighted the challenges that our high streets face and how he believes the practices of Smart Parking UK are undermining the viability of local businesses.
The charging and fining system in operation has led to thousands of fines being issued despite people trying to do the right thing and pay the appropriate fee to park.
Stephen said: “I am as fed up as everyone else is with the actions of the car park operator Smart Parking UK. The Westgate Cark Park in Basildon is one of the worst examples I have seen locally of blatant exploitation and heavy handedness by an organisation whose parking rules seem entirely constructed for exploitative financial gain.
It is totally wrong that Smart Parking UK charge their customers from the moment they enter the car park to the moment they leave without allowing a period of grace to return to their cars. This is unfair and discriminates against the elderly and disabled, some of whom have written to me after being fined. It is also ridiculous that Smart Parking UK are charging taxi drivers who enter the car park to drop someone off and happen to re-enter within a four-hour time frame.
I share the frustration of my constituents who have created a Facebook group which now has almost three thousand members.
I have therefore taken the following action:
- Taken up specific cases with the company on behalf of constituents;
- Met with the local council to ensure they are alerted to the problem and taking what action they can;
- Been in contact with the shopping centre management company MJ Mapp who are also seeking to address concerns;
- Written to the DVLA to request they cease providing driver information to Smart Parking;
- Written to the British Parking Association to request they investigate and revoke Smart Parking UK’s membership;
- Tabled a Parliamentary question asking The Secretary of State for Transport to look into Smart Parking UK’s unfair and opaque practices and what power he has to direct the DVLA to stop selling data to them;
- Raised the issue on the floor of the House of Commons; and
- Rallied support from other MPs to join a campaign to revoke Smart Parking’s BPA membership.
I will continue to monitor the situation closely and would welcome a positive response from Smart Parking UK stating they will end their unfair practices which risk giving Westgate shopping centre a bad reputation.”