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News & views

Small signs of success in parking campaign

[16 Sept 2012] [Updated 1 October 2012] From 1 October 2012, a new code of practice will govern the activities of private parking companies that belong to the British Parking Association (BPA). For the first time, the code will require members to put a large sign at car-park entrances stating the main type of parking available, eg ‘pay and display’, in lettering 60mm (2.4in) high.

This is a success for our campaign to get private car-park signs improved, but there is major doubt about whether it will lead to generally beneficial change for motorists because the rest of the code remains highly ambiguous and weighted strongly in favour of the companies, which chase drivers for more than £160million a year in phoney (ie, non-official) fines. (See our other recent new stories, and our Articles page under ‘Parking’.) It is also shocking that BPA members will have until October 2015 to erect the new entrance signs at existing sites, a ‘transitional provision’ that the BPA sneaked in on the code’s final page.

Both the BPA and the government’s Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) avoided consulting Plain Language Commission on the draft of the new code, despite (or because of) our frequent contacts with them about misleading signage.

Martin Cutts of Plain Language Commission wrote to BPA president Anjna Patel giving our reaction to the new code. ‘I... am pleased it has adopted some of the points I and others have raised with your officials over the past two years. On signage, for example, the new draft will require a clear sign at the entrance saying, eg, ‘pay and display’ in lettering 60mm high. The new draft also references the DfT signs manual, which my article ‘Phoney fines and dodgy signs take drivers for a ride’ suggested should be the model for private parking signs. The BPA had previously insisted that signs were perfectly clear when the words ‘pay and display’ were only 13mm high, eg about five times smaller than you now require, and had resolutely supported member companies that had imposed thousands of PCNs [parking charge notices] on motorists who had omitted to pay and display because of such signs.  [cont]

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