Drivers warn others after being hit with £100 charge at Thinford near Durham

MOTORISTS are warning others after being slapped with a £100 parking charge on an ‘unmarked’ stretch of road in County Durham.

A number of motorists have warned against making the same mistake after parking on a private road at Thinford Services, near Spennymoor.

The road, which links Costa Coffee and Burger King with the A167, is being monitored 24-hours per day with charges enforced by a private firm.

Anyone who is caught parking on the road is sent a Parking Charge Notice requesting they pay £100, which is discounted to £60 if paid within the first 14 days.

But Flor Kerins of Newton Aycliffe said he believed it is not “immediately obvious” that parking restrictions are in operation following a visit to Burger King in December.

The Northern Echo: Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTPicture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Warning other drivers not to make the same mistake, Mr Kerins said he had only noticed any wrongdoing following a letter in the post several days later.

He told The Northern Echo: “It wasn’t immediately obvious, there are no double-yellow lines, which is normally what I look for as an indication of no parking.

“We didn’t think we were doing anything wrong, we parked up on the unmarked road, ate our burger and took our rubbish home with us – it was an expensive Burger King.

“I was frustrated at myself because I was foolish to let it happen, but I just didn’t realise.”

Mark Bowman, who ended up having to pay £160 in charges, was caught after stopping to secure a coffee cup that had fallen following collection.

The Northern Echo: Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTPicture: SARAH CALDECOTT

The man, from West Cornforth near Ferryhill, said: “I had been into Costa Coffee and as I pulled out, I put my coffees on my passenger seat but noticed one had fallen out of the holder.

“I quickly pulled over to put it upright, must have been there for two to three minutes max and in December received a letter stating I had a £60 charge.”

But after a mix-up with his post, Mr Bowman said he received a further letter asking him to pay £160 or face court action.

He said: “I paid the fine immediately but I thought it was a little unfair – I didn’t have time to challenge it due to long shift hours, so I just paid it.”

Mr Bowman had taken to social media to warn fellow motorists to avoid making the same mistake. 

In response, Regent Parking said parking charges had been mainly brought in to assist with issues including littering, caused by drivers using the road as an “unofficial resting point.”

It said it had installed eight large contractual warning signs, which are displayed throughout the site, with an audit from The International Parking Community approving signage before enforcement began.

The Northern Echo: Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTPicture: SARAH CALDECOTT

A company spokesperson said: “Any driver that decides to park, will receive a parking charge. If a charge is issued, the motorist is initially given the opportunity to challenge it with ourselves.

“If unsuccessful, they are provided with details of an Independent Appeals Service. This service allows a driver to appeal, free of charge, and have the case assessed by an independent adjudicator.

“Regent Parking was brought in, primarily, to assist with ongoing issues relating to littering, caused by motorists using the roadway as an unofficial resting point.

“A secondary issue was that there were safety concerns, as often, drivers use Thinford Park roadway as a ‘cut through’ to avoid the traffic lights on the main road.

“If vehicles decide to park, there is a potential that accidents will occur with cars pulling in and out of parking spaces in the face of oncoming traffic.”

The firm said that since enforcement began, there had been a reduction in litter at the concerned site.

The spokesperson said: “Since Regent Parking commenced enforcement on site in December 2020, there has been a marked reduction in littering, and the roadway is mainly kept clear.

“Unfortunately, there are still some drivers who choose to park on site and those drivers will receive a parking charge in accordance with the displayed terms and conditions.

“At Regent Parking, our company ethos is based on integrity, and our operations are carried out, always, within the relevant legislative and regulatory framework.

“We have worked incredibly hard to build our company reputation and take all allegations extremely seriously.

“Whilst we are satisfied that this site is being administered lawfully, we welcome any feedback your readers may wish to provide and would be more than happy to engage with a view to improving our services.”

The Northern Echo | Durham