Claims of ‘predatory tactics’ to fleece motorists – but the operator says 10 minutes should be enough time to drive 200 yards down an access road and buy a ticket

Sandhills car park at Instow. Picture: Rachael HunterSandhills car park at Instow. Picture: Rachael Hunter

Irate motorist are calling for changes to what has become Instow’s most notorious car park.

Dozens of drivers have ended up with fines after falling afoul of the CCTV-operated Sandhills car park in the village.

The Sandhills Action Group on Facebook has more than 70 members, all of whom have received penalty charge notices (PCNs) via the automatic numberplate recognition (ANPR) camera system.

The car park is owned by Christie Estates but operated by Direct Solutions for Parking Limited.

Drivers should get a 10 minute grace period before being charged for their stay, but campaigners say poor signage, lighting and a slow, pot-holed access road often make it difficult to buy a ticket in time.

Rachael Hunter from Bideford has received four PCNs – the first time she found she was unable to pay by phone or online and the second time the machine would not accept her change. Both occasions took her over the grace period.

She has also received two more, which she says she paid for but believes the ANPR camera and ticket machine times are out of sync.

Rachael says there is no planning permission for either the cameras or the signage.

The Gazette put this to North Devon Council, which said that was true but that it would ‘not be in the public interest’ to pursue enforcement.

Holidaymaker Alexandra Cooper also received a PCN for stopping on the access road – despite paying for parking - and said she believed the car park company was using ‘predatory tactics’ since the signs were on the access road, but you could not stop to read them.

The Gazette put some of these complaints to Lukasz Palecki, managing director of DSFP.

He said the signage on the site complied with regulations and was sufficient, while there was lighting in the key areas needed.

He said the access road was only 200 yards, yet it seemed 10 minutes was not enough for some to drive down and purchase a ticket.

Mr Palecki disputed the cameras and machine were out of sync and said they both ran off the same server.

A Christie Estate spokesman said: “Sandhills car park is operated and managed by DSFP who have leased the site from Christie Devon Estates since 2016. An ANPR system has been in place since the beginning of the 2017 season and signage around the car park clearly states conditions of parking.

“In response to correspondence from the public, additional signage has now been put in place to provide extra clarification.

“There is an appeal procedure at DSFP and we have been made aware of the fact that, in cases where there are genuine mitigating circumstances, fines have been waived.

“However, while we sympathise with those who feel they have been wrongly fined, the estate is not in a position to overrule the enforcement of parking charges.”