LETTER: Whalley’s car parking explained

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I DIDN’T want to enter into any debates over this topic, but feel compelled to write to correct some errors which have been made regarding parking in our village and to defend my business, The Swan Hotel, in King Street, Whalley.

The Swan Hotel does indeed have a reasonable-sized car park at the rear of our premises. It is accessed from a small side-entrance off Accrington Road, marked with a large “P” and installed by the council several years ago. Our car park is private land, leased to us through a large pub company, making up our business premises. It is for the use of our customers, overnight guests and staff.

Several years ago, our landlord identified that car parks can make money! They increased the rent and expected us to start recovering that increased cost from our customers. Our business rates also factor in our car park space and in recent years, United Utilities have begun charging huge fees for rain water to be collected from our land, all costs which have massively increased in the last five years.

A pay-and-display machine was installed with signage, allowing visitors to use the car park for a nominal fee – those fees have not increased for over 10 years. Technically, the car park is still free to use for our actual customers, as the cost of the parking ticket can be redeemed across the bar for food and drink purchases. We simply cover our costs.

There are four pub businesses in the village of Whalley, two have car parks, The Swan hotel and The Whalley Arms. Both sites are actually owned by the same landlord, but both have different leaseholders running very different businesses with no connection to each other.

Over a year ago, The Whalley Arms leaseholder installed a new car park management system called Parking Eye. This is an automated system which uses number-plate recognition to time entry and departure to and from the car park. Failure to purchase a ticket or an over-stay of your paid departure time will result in a huge fine which is then collected by Parking Eye and a percentage paid to the leaseholder.

Human issues such as “I’m disabled”, “I’m just dropping the kids off at school” or “I’m just picking up a prescription” cannot be handled by an automated machine – it has made its choice and will simply fine you for not having a ticket. As the outlay has already been made for the installation of the equipment, the system must generate a certain level of profit for both companies involved. I would imagine there will be no change to the rules and while I may not want Parking Eye installed on my premises, as it removes the human involvement, I can fully understand why, in the current economic climate, the current leaseholder of The Whalley Arms has installed it. He leases land and premises which must be paid for. He has costs which must be met and a product – namely the car park – which is in demand. Why wouldn’t he?

I must stress The Swan Hotel does not have the Parking Eye system installed – we work on a simple pay-and-display basis as we always have. Over recent months, we have found our name pushed around with contempt because of the fines issued by Parking Eye, as customers mistakenly think they got the fine from our car park. We have even received letters and irate telephone calls. People have threatened to withdraw their trade from our beloved village for causing them upset! I have often questioned that they mustn’t be frequent visitors as they can’t identify where they actually parked!

There are several issues here:

Disabled parking is not necessarily free in a private car park. You should always check.

Parking land in towns and villages is often valuable. Landowners know this and will seek to make money from it! Some of that money does reach the government in the form of taxes and ultimately provides services we all benefit from.

Businesses often have huge costs the public are not always aware of – we must seek to cover these costs and make some profit if we’re lucky. Why else would we go to the trouble of being in business?

Whalley is a fantastic village with much to offer. Just because you can’t park directly outside the exact shop you need for free, don’t despair. Use our reasonably priced car park, wander through the lovely village and find something you didn’t know existed. On your return, stop inside our premises for a bite to eat and a drink, redeem your ticket and feel all warm and fuzzy inside, knowing you have contributed to the local economy, using local goods and services and employing local people!

P.S. We can’t redeem tickets from The Whalley Arms car park – we have no access to their machine and therefore no claim on the revenue collected from it!

LOUISE CLOUGH

The Swan Hotel,

Whalley