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10:30 - 16 September 2004

Drivers were today told they must ask permission to leave a city centre car park on foot - or face a £30 fine.

Anyone parking in the Tritton Retail Park, off Tritton Road, will be given a ticket if they leave the shopping precinct without their vehicle.

The warning comes after motorist Mike Smith was issued with a fine after he walked across the road to go to the toilet in Morrisons supermarket.

Mr Smith (40) of Branston, near Lincoln, had previously been shopping in Comet and Halfords. He said he was stunned to find the ticket when he got back to his car.

Signs in the car park state that motorists can park there free for up to two hours.

"I parked my car at about one o'clock," said Mr Smith. "I looked at the bikes in Halfords and then bought a bottle of screenwash before going out to my car.

"The time on the receipt reads 2.01pm, so I had been in the car park for just over an hour.

"When I got to my car I saw I had been issued a fine for £30.

"Hand-written on the ticket were the words 'did not shop at shops' and a box was ticked which said I had left the estate."

Car park signs state that it is a customer car park but there is no mention of a fine for failing to purchase items from shops on the retail park.

Mr Smith looked around the car park for the attendant but could not see him.

The following morning he returned to the car park and spoke to the attendant, who told him he had been ordered to book anyone spotted walking off the area.

"Unless they have a guaranteed way of checking if people have used the shops then they can't be booking people like this. It is unacceptable," said Mr Smith.

"If this is what they are going to do, people need to be aware of the fact. They need to make the sign a lot clearer."

London-based Beaver Property Management, which runs the car park, said the only way it could stop people parking and walking into town without using the park's shops was to issue a ticket to anyone seen leaving the area.

The firm's area manager Tito Ponzetta said people who wanted to leave the park needed to find an attendant and tell them that they would return and use the park shops or prove that they had done so already. "Mr Smith was witnessed by the attendant leaving the car park," he said.

"Our company has been instructed by the landowner and the city council not to allow people to use the car park to go into town.

"The only way we can ensure that this is not happening is to issue tickets when we see people leaving the car park.

"If they do come back within the two hour maximum stay we will void the ticket with proof of purchase. If there is an attendant on site they can void the ticket or, if not, there is a phone number to ring."

The news is just the latest blow to car users, who this week were told another city car park is to close and be redeveloped.

A spokesman for the city council said it was not aware of the fines.

"We were not aware of the fines but as a private car park it is down to the discretion of the property management group that manage it.

"But it sounds like they need to review their signage so the circumstances under which people are parking is clear."

Should people be fined for parking without using the retail park's shops? Write to Your View, Lincolnshire Echo, Brayford Wharf East, Lincoln, LN5 7AT.Or e-mail yourview@lincolnshireecho.co.uk


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