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Excel Parking at Ebbw Vale – MP slams ambiguity and small print

[18 Jan 2012] Nick Smith, MP for Blaenau Gwent, told the Commons yesterday about the need for better signage at private car parks. 

‘If... we want to rejuvenate our town centres, we have to be sensitive to the needs of car-park users. I believe easy-to-use and easy-to-understand parking systems are important, too. People should do the right thing, and pay and display. My constituents are both intelligent and compliant. However, the problems some of them have faced are illustrated by one clear example.

‘Following the arrival of a new parking operator, Excel, 29 disabled blue badge holders were issued with multiple penalty notices [at The Walk, Ebbw Vale]. It became clear to me that they were not to blame. Indeed, when they saw a new sign saying “normal conditions apply” and saw no signage in disabled parking bays, they thought that they could continue to park for free. Well, they assumed wrong, and they received penalty notices of £60 a time. After much advocacy, some are starting to have them taken back.

‘My experience over these last few weeks suggests that signage is important. If the signage is got right, people understand the rules and comply. When I identified the confusion and sought simplicity, I was not surprised to see that my request for a sign saying, “Everybody has to pay at this car park—24 hours a day, seven days a week” did not find favour. That makes me and many others think that some operators are using ambiguity rather than clarity to clobber motorists and boost their profits. If the signage is difficult to understand, the fine print is complex and the font is small, people will be confused – then penalty notices get issued and drivers stay away, so it is the high street that suffers.’

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