Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Open Letter to Marcus Jones MP

The Chief Executive of the British Parking Association, Patrick Troy has written an open letter to Marcus Jones MP.

The Prankster, not to be outdone, presents his own version.

Dear Mr Jones,

I understand you have received an open letter from Mr Troy of the British Parking to follow up the media interest in the case of Cardigan where, due to vandalism of parking machines in local car parks, it was reported that many of the shops in Cardigan’s town centre benefited from the temporary availability of free parking.

Mr Troy makes 3 points. It may be worthwhile taking a deeper look at the issues.

1. Mr Troy points to some research commissioned by the BPA. We should remind ourselves of the previous poor quality of the BPA';s research and that the BPA has history of deceiving the government.

The impact assessment for keeper liability is available here:

In this report the BPA informed the government that currently there were 30,000 - 90,000 parking related court cases per year, and that keeper liability laws would reduce this. However, they were found to be lying. In 2011 there were in fact only 845 parking related court claims. Ironically, as a result of the change in the law, vast numbers of court claims are now clogging up the judicial system. ParkingEye alone filed over 30,000 claims in 2014.

A fuller report can be found here.

Any research undertaken by the BPA should therefore be taken with a pinch of salt. Furthermore, any research undertaken by just asking motorists questions has no validity whatsoever. I recommend researching this properly by trialling different approaches in different types of locations. For instance, the town of Malmesbury in Wiltshire are trialling for a year one car park which allows 2 hours free parking. This type of approach gives actual facts from which conclusions can be drawn.

We can compare and contrast the two approachs with the recent general election. Asking questions (polling)  produced unreliable results. Basing predictions on actual information (exit polls) was more accurate. And of course the ultimate accuracy was the results themselves. Returning to parking, the more parking trials in different situations the better.

2. There is no such thing as free parking.

This is sadly true, but this does not mean that free parking cannot be provided. Where free parking boosts trade, the car park provider can make their money in other ways. For instance supermarkets provide free parking to attract consumers, as do some retail parks. Council car parks can benefit because the increased trade results in more revenue generated for the council in other areas than parking.

The risk of all day parkers is a fiction invented by the BPA and can easily be circumvented. Parking can be made free for a limited time. Some operators have been more creative and charge for parking only during commuter periods, with free parking the rest of the day.

3. Finally the snake oil about ANPR must be resisted. ANPR as used today is a toxic technology, used primarily to generate parking charges rather than to properly manage car parks. It is inherently unreliable; many motorists have received charge notices for staying all day in a car park when they actually visited twice. This occurs because ANPR does not have X-Ray vision, so close following vehicles can obscure numberplates.

To generate charges, ANPR is used as a 'guess-on-exit' technology where the motorist has to guess how long they stayed, and gets charged if they guess wrong, or accidentally enter an incorrect numberplate. This generates huge numbers of parking charges at hospitals. Companies like ParkingEye can rake in up to £1,000,000 in charges at a typical hospital, causing misery to vulnerable people.

These wrongs can be righted. ANPR can be used in a responsible manner. If the government does reverse their position on ANPR it is vital that the following are mandated whenever ANPR is deployed.
a) A backup technology must be used. For instance, the use of buried induction coils can force ANPR to take a photograph whenever a vehicle passes over them, whether or not the numberplate is visible. This would provide a way of verifying that a vehicle visited twice, even if the numberplate was obscured on one or more entry/exits.
b) A pay on exit technology must be used. The ANPR system knows what numberplates are in the car park, so incorrect numbers must not be allowed. The ANPR system knows how long the car was there for, so the correct charge can be asked for.
This type of system is already in use and works very well. For instance, at Bristol Eye Hospital, there were no charges for overstay in a 3 month period - compare this to the £1,000,000 a year raked in by ParkingEye.

I have a huge amount of information on motorists being ripped off by the dodgy end of the parking industry, so please contact me if you require any specific information. I would be more than happy to meet you to discuss these issues.

Kind Regards,

The Parking Prankster.


  1. <>

    Well it sure ain't the PPCs, who farm, garner and collect by far the greatest revenue from the said car parks. Why aren't they paying for the upkeep? Who does the BPA suggest pays for the upkeep?

    1. Hmm! Cost of maintaining a car park would be clouded in mystery, or bullshit, however you wish to describe it.
      However in my experience the cost of maintaining any properly surfaced car park should not exceed £100 per bay every 10-15 years, and it ought not cost more to strip, stone up and surface a new car park of over 200 spaces than £350 per bay - my "guestimate" should be well OTT. If anyone is paying more PLEASE get in touch. There is also the cost of the land in the first place but this will rise in value. The initial surfacing should not need attention for at least 15-20) years.
      So don't be misled on initial or subsequent "costs" justifying high on-site overheads.

  2. where the council is the sole provider of car parking. Cardigan is clearly an example of this.

    No it isn't Parking Eye also "manage" two car parks

  3. Surely the biggest problem with ANPR must be that it can only trap vehicles on overstays. To properly manage a car park as some operators claim to do ANPR falls well short. Parent and child , disabled bays etc even EV charging bays can only be managed by boots on the ground.

  4. Boots on ground = Parking Management
    ANPR = Penalty charges.

  5. Hang on Prankster, how can you assert that "any research undertaken by just asking motorists questions has no validity whatsoever" on the one hand, but give weight to the anecdotal evidence of store staff (who were "just asked questions") at the car park at the centre of the Beavis case about the effect of parking management on their business on the other?

    Clearly, neither constitutes empirical research. Either both are valid or both are invalid.

    1. The store staff were asked in essence factual questions. a) Have you had many customer complaints about the 2-hour parking limit; and b) Does Parking Eye's enforcement of the 2 hours help or hinder your business? (a) is completely factual. (b) is more subjective, but the answer given clearly show there is a factual basis ('shoppers abandon their trolley mid shop because of restrictions).

      The motorists are asked airy fairy questions. Do you prefer safety or cost? This instantly biases the answer. Oh my, of course I must choose safety - I don't want to die or be injured. But when it comes down to it, what would they do in real life?

    2. I can't comment on the content of the questions asked of motorists as I do not know what these questions are. If they are as you say, then I would fully agree that they should be taken with a large pinch of salt.

      However, I would personally express the opinion that a straw poll of retailers is similarly (if not entirely equally) questionable as 'evidence' that any particular parking scheme does not achieve it's purported aim (in this case ensuring a certain amount of turnover of parking spaces)

    3. Surely, hopefully, these parking schemes are intended to eliminate abuse of the car park in question.
      It therefore follows that any increase in non-compliance is proof-positive of the level of success of the scheme. That is, failure!
      Personally I would like to wish all predatory private parking companies total and early success in their endeavours to put themselves out of business by succeeding in eliminating car park abuse.

  6. Have you had a reply, yet? Fair play to Patrick Troy, he replied to mine, via twitter, but stuck to his old "I see no ships - er I mean, breach!" line.