London: A motorist has won a six-month legal battle after he was fined over a £1 parking fee.
John Samuels, 56, parked by a Tesco Metro store but was unaware he was liable to pay the GBP1 charge because the sign was obscured by a pillar.
After returning to his vehicle to find a £50 (Dh296) penalty notice, he scoured the car park and eventually saw a blue sign on a wall at ground level, reading: “This is a pay and display car park.”
He then sent photographic evidence of the hidden sign and a cheque for the £1 charge to Wiltshire Council and appealed against his fine.
But the council rejected his appeal and he had to attend a Traffic Penalty Tribunal in Bristol — to which the council sent two officials and submitted a 74-page dossier.
Adjudicator Deborah Gibson cancelled the parking ticket and ruled the signage was “inadequate”.
Mr Samuels said his battle had cost him far more than the £50 fine but he had contested it as “a point of principle”. Declining to specify the financial loss he suffered in terms of lost time, he pointed out the “sheer cost” to the public of the council’s campaign.
He said: “Besides a mass of paperwork for the council defence, the council sent out someone to take their own photographs.
“All this for a missed £1 parking payment which I sent a cheque for on the same day in retrospect, which the council returned and insisted on fining me.”
Mr Samuels had parked at Emery Gate Shopping Centre in Chippenham, Wiltshire, while he attended a brief meeting. He assumed it was free because the area was signposted as “Tesco Metro parking”.
But when he returned to find a penalty ticket on his car he searched for signs stating that it was a pay and display car park. When he eventually found the small blue sign he photographed both it and a white van which was obstructing his view of a ticket machine at the far end of the car park.
Mr Samuels, who lives near Glastonbury, Somerset, submitted his photos and a £1 cheque to Wiltshire Council on the same day.
But they refused his appeal so the case ended up at the Traffic Penalty Tribunal.
In a ruling, the adjudicator said: “Mr Samuels produced photographs of other car parks where there were more numerous and clearer signs.
“I find that relying upon signs at machines at some distance when the entrance is not clearly marked as pay and display but being a Tesco car park is not sufficient.
“I find that the signage was not adequate and the contravention did not occur.”
The council has since changed the signs, with the sign on the wall at ground level moved so it is no longer obscured by the pillar.
A new sign stating that Emery Gate is a pay and display car park is underneath the Tesco Metro sign at the car park entrance.
Councillor Dick Tonge, Cabinet member for highways at Wiltshire Council, said: “The signage at Emery Gate is continually reviewed as part of the council’s maintenance programme.
“There is no fee for the Traffic Penalty Tribunal as they are funded by annual fees from local authorities.” The council refused to state how much they had paid for the case but said the main cost would be officer time.