Shoppers who queued for more than two hours to get out of a car park over the Easter bank holiday weekend have been slapped with £100 fines for overstaying their time slot.
Parking cameras went live at the Ashford Retail Park in Kent in April, with signs telling drivers the new maximum stay is three hours.
But motorists got caught in gridlock on Easter Monday, and were trapped in the car park for hours when they struggled to join traffic on adjoining roads.

A variation on “the computer says”

49 thoughts on “Facepalm”

  1. Bloke in North Dorset

    Its sad that people see a bank holiday as a chance to take the family out shopping when there’s so much more to be done, especially in this age of Internet shopping. But, each to their own.

  2. I can’t think of anything more boring than driving to a shopping centre on a Bank Holiday Monday, even if the weather is crap.

  3. Dunno. Strenuous retail therapy seems an appropriate antidote for a day celebrating international socialism.

  4. So Much For Subtlety

    bloke in spain – “Strenuous retail therapy seems an appropriate antidote for a day celebrating international socialism.”

    Being forced to queue for hours and then punished in a brutal and entirely arbitrary way will certainly bring back fond memories of the Eastern Bloc.

  5. But there’s something so typically British about this story. If Ashford Retail Park’s the one I think it is, it’s a shopping centre just off the A20, on the outskirts of Ashford. The only reason to be parking there would be to be shopping in one of the shops. Only the Brits would control the parking for a place like this. I’ve used centre commercials from Belgium to Cadiz via Portamao & Milan & I can’t think of a single one of them charge for parking. Why would you? Except the Brits. Who do it, because they can. One reason I prefer staying on the sensible side of the Pas de Calais.

  6. To add: When I’m staying in Bailleul (Dept Nord – Flandres) & want to go to Lille, I drive to the station & take the train. The parking’s unrestricted & free. WTF would they charge for parking? If they did, I’d drive to Lille & park there. Wouldn’t use the train & add to Lille’s traffic congestion. Do the same in the UK & the station parking’d be more than the ticket. Come back & find the car was clamped.
    Brits. Barking.

  7. The Meissen Bison

    Going off on a bit of a tangent here but there’s a distinct relationship between supermarkets and the standard of driving in their carparks.

    The worst, by far, is Waitrose for although the gentility of its patrons may be unimpeachable, the driving is dreadful. It’s not just the women in four-by-fours who have no notion of their vehicles’ dimensions or the elderly and confused.

    The solution is to park elsewhere and walk or to shop where cars are held together with gaffer tape or boast their owners’ prodigious fecundity with their “baby-on-board” (or worse still, their cloying “small-person-on-board”) stickers.

  8. @BiS

    Yep, barking.

    Round our way, there’s a train station with two car parks next to it. Also within walking distance of the high street shops.

    Because the twats charge (excessively) for it, the car parks become a kind of parking void, where very few cars use it but commuters and shoppers instead park all over the residential areas immediately surrounding the car parks.

    Local councillors keep suggesting implementing residents-only restrictions, which of course they’d charge for. But never just offering free parking on the two big flat empty tarmac areas, ‘cos there’s no money in that for them.

  9. @TMB
    Not only Waitrose. Drove into the the Myramar shopping centre here (Carrefour & the rest mostly high end chain frockshops) to be confronted by one car with a stoved in front & the other lying on its side. Well, it’s an acknowledged fact. A dago’s not to be trusted with any vehicle doesn’t have a leg at each corner. But,In a car park!!!

  10. It’s the three-hour limit that really grates. What does a three-hour limit achieve that couldn’t be done with a simple “no overnight parking” rule?

  11. Bloke in North Dorset

    Andrew M,

    Stops commuters parking there all day and clogging up the place so shoppers can’t park.

    On a similar note, I see Labour has said it will abolish NHS car park charges. The complaint before they were introduced in High Wycombe was that patients couldn’t find a space because it was full of staff/shoppers/commuters cars.

    After it came in those who had to make regular hospital visits could claim the money back.

  12. The local councillors can’t offer free parking in the train station car park because it’s a train station car park not a council car park. Ditto hospital car parks.

  13. BiND,
    As BiS pointed out, there’s nothing else nearby. There are some warehouses behind the retail park, l but looking on Google satellite view they appear to have ample parking.

    Parking charges make sense in a city centre; but I can’t see the need in an out-of-town shopping centre.

    Even if a handful of cars were parking there on weekdays, the shops are less busy then anyway.

  14. Coming back to Ashford. Ashford hospital is way outside of Ashford, with the only thing near it, an industrial estate. It’s catchment area is the entirety of North Kent. A patient living in Margate & required for an 8am admission for an operation & an overnight stay is confronted by a slight problem. It’s about 40 miles via Canterbury. There is no bus service operating early enough to achieve this. It might be possible to use the train. If one went via London & had all night.. A taxi would probably be north of £60 each way
    Ashford hospital does however have a large car park. £2 an hour on pay&display. Maximum payment, 4 hours.
    Figure that one..

  15. BiS,
    It doesn’t look that bad. £2 for the first hour; £8 for 24 hours; and £12 for seven days.

    My local hospital costs some £1.40 per hour; but it’s underpriced, and patients are literally driving round in circles trying to find a space.

  16. The Meissen Bison

    BiS: A dago’s not to be trusted with any vehicle

    Yes. The N10 between Poitiers and Bordeaux as alternative to the A10 with its péage was popular with Iberian HGV drivers and earned itself the nickname amongst locals as the Cimtière des Portugais on account of those who fell definitively asleep at the wheel.

  17. BiS, it’s probably the one you’re thing of, Sevington, south of Ashford, close to the M20. The only way out of it, is to turn left onto the dualled A2070, which is effectively Ashford’s ring road. Tough if you want to go right, as you’ve got to go up to the motorway junction to turn round, and that’s got traffic lights on it. Can easily see how people got trapped there.

    The outlet centre close to the Eurostar used to have a similar problem after they stuck an Asda next door. Out of the car park, turn right to get to the main road. When Asda went up, that became a T junction, and you got trapped by the supermarket traffic. Looks like they stuck a roundabout in to sort that one out.

  18. As in, compulsory purchase to replace with things no-one wants.

    And hey, it is all the State’s one way or another.

  19. On the charging for parking at out of town retail sites; there’s a couple of things that could drive this. First off, if the developer doesn’t achieve the sort of rents they were aiming for when they kicked the whole thing off, they can recover some of the shortfall from the parking. The tenants might not be happy about it, but they’re now effectively locked in for a good few years, and, the site owner can now use the removal of the parking fees as a bargaining chip in the next rent review.

    The other thing is the tenants​ might want it, perhaps to encourage customers to complete their business as quickly as possible and then just bugger off. This could give you the old (Israeli?) Nursery Late Pickup Fines, where if the charge comes in after the second hour, say, or the rate rises significantly, there’s no incentive to incur that charge for only the first part of the third hour, so people hang about until 2 hours and 55 minutes, to get their money’s worth, and the car park won’t clear at the expected rate, so the tenants don’t achieve the hoped for increase in transaction volume.

  20. That’s a good point. There’s one of them outlets near my folks, which also has bugger-all else near it.

    They don’t charge for parking yet… but a lot of the big-name retailers have buggered off since the promising early days and many of the replacements don’t last long, so they maybe will be seeing that drop off in rents that parking charges would make up for, at least temporarily.

    I suspect a lot of folks go there just to potter around, window shop and grab a bite of fast food to eat rather than buy much. (The only evidence I have for that is I don’t see many with shopping bags and it is an area with lots of folks on benefits with time to kill.)

  21. Ducky/Cynic,

    We’re not talking about parking charges though. The Ashford Retail Park is free for under 3 hours, then a £60/£100 fine for anyone who exceeds that. There might be some revenue at the start, catching out newcomers; but long-term the revenue will be minimal. (Or would it?)

  22. On a similar note to Tim’s, here’s another good case:

    Let’s a cop car pass by moving over into the bus lane.

    Brighton council idiots issue fine.

    She appeals.

    Council idiots reject appeal.

    Finally has to go to a tribunal to be overturned.

    Having appealed the £30 fine, she was contacted by a council officer who said: “I have noted the comments made in your representation that, ‘Myself and the van in front were moving over to let an emergency vehicle with sirens pass us. You can clearly see the emergency vehicle in your picture.”

    “However this does not entitle you to use the bus lane. You must remain in the right hand lane and allow any emergency vehicle to use the bus lane.

    “You must not enter the bus lane early, even if there is a queue of traffic.

    “You must remain in the right hand lane until the bus lane ends.

    “Only designated vehicles are permitted to drive in bus lanes.

    “By driving in a bus lane you are obstructing the road for these vehicles causing delays for public transport users.”

  23. @Andrew M

    Are you sure that’s a fine and not a charge? Some companies like dressing up fines as “penalty charges” though, since I think only the State can issue fines or summat. But yeah, it is just a fine in all but name.

    I think Ducky’s point still stands, that it may be a way (however desperate and dastardly) of making up for lost revenue.

  24. On the hospital thing, sort of related. Tunbridge Wells hospital (aka the Kent and Snuff It) used to be in the centre of town. They had plans for God only knows how many years, to move it to various sites to the west, basically nearer the A21 in order to improve A&E access, apparently. In the end, they razed the old Pembury Hospital to the ground, and built a brand spanking new one on the site.

    Fair enough.

    But; the general trend over 20-30 odd years is to concentrate services on the larger sites, plus the target culture, which seems to have created a focus on maximising utilisation rates for various resources (scanners, theatres, surgeons, whatever). So the 07:30 reporting time, that doesn’t fit at all with any public transport, means the car parks are overwhelmed by 8. At this point, people are now driving around for half an hour just trying park. This buggers up the appointment/queuing system, so the target utilisation or waiting time now can’t be achieved, although it’s really quite good at pissing people off.

    Can’t imagine why they need all the “Stop Abuse of NHS Staff” posters all over the place.

    Oh, and by definition, if you max out the utilisation rate, you’ve got minimal spare capacity, and probably zero resilience. Of course the whole thing is on the verge of collapse, all the fucking time.

  25. Ducky,
    > But; the general trend over 20-30 odd years is to concentrate services on the larger sites

    That’s partly to get better resource use, but also because it’s what staff increasingly want. In France there are little villages which struggle to recruit a GP: to an outsider it looks like a cushy job, but it’s a lonely one, and there’s zero career progression. Also, any cock-ups are yours alone.

    If you work in a big hospital, you get to chin-wag with colleagues, moan about management, spread the blame, and get promoted to management when you eventually do screw up.

  26. However this does not entitle you to use the bus lane. You must remain in the right hand lane and allow any emergency vehicle to use the bus lane.

    This fucking idiot hasn’t the wits to realise that grabbing £30 in a heist like this is going to discourage people from getting out of the way of emergency vehicles. With luck he’ll be the one waiting for the delayed ambulance.

    The stupidity, the sheer pig-headed stupidity of people really pisses me off.

  27. If a private company had behaved like this council did it would make national news. But meh, evil capitalism.

  28. @AndrewM
    That looks like a recent change at Ashford hospital. My experience was from a few years ago. The only barriered carpark seemed to be reserved for staff – which was where I was permitted to park. After a great deal of shouting.

    And what cynic/MrDuck are reporting is vintage Brit barking. If you’ve a shopping centre with declining custom WTF would you be deterring those you’re getting? Doesn’t even make sense from the developer’s point of view. Less customers>more retailers leaving>less amenities to attract customers>return to start. If it’s short of customers, by definition they haven’t got a parking shortage to manage.
    Most European centres commercials I visit, they don’t want you to stay for 3 hours. They’d like you to stay all day. Why supermarchés have decent restaurants where you can linger over a 2 hour lunch.

  29. Should be added that the place I live now, of the two underused over-charging car parks, is suffering from the usual high street death spiral. Increasingly being taken over by charity shops or just empty windows. But so many charity shops, which I think don’t pay rates. And it’s a nice town in the south east, not some dump like back where I came from.

    Maybe it’s terminal anyway because of the internet and supermarkets, but making parking a bugger isn’t going to help the high street.

  30. @cynic
    The two nearest towns to us in Northern France are Bailleul & Hazebrouk. Both are full of thriving shops. Both have busy weekly markets. Neither have much in the way of retail voids. I don’t think the French do charity shops. Never seen one, anyway. Both have large supermarkets on their peripheral centres commercial. And French supermarkets make Tesco Extras (or whatever the big ones are called) look like corner shops. (Go see the E-LeClerc in Toulouse. It must have 1/2 km of checkout points)
    A clue. The only parts of both towns have parking controls are where it really matters. Narrow main streets. Where there is pay-to-park, it’s free for the first hour, 30 cents the next & gets progressively dearer. But no charges are made for parking between 12:30 & 2:30. The lunch hours. And they have the useful Blue Bays. Where one can park for a short period by displaying a time wheel card (similar to UK disabled permit timers). Buy them from various shops for a Euro & use ’til it wears out.
    There may be a connection.

  31. A little cultural question: do you know if the French and Spanish internet-shop as much as the English? Likewise do they like getting their meat and bread from markets rather than just getting the whole lot from Tesco in one grudging trip?

    (now there’s home delivery, plenty folks here don’t even bother with the supermarket trip anymore).

    Must confess, I’m “guilty” of just getting things from Amazon and eBay rather than stepping out or taking a drive. I’m also guilty of buying from Amazon because I can’t be arsed setting up an account with a new retailer. And if we get food off of market stalls or the butchers, it’s Mrs Cynic doing the buying rather than Mr Cynic.

  32. Don’t think either are as internet shopping orientated as the UK. In the Spanish case, it’s not helped by the Spanish incompetence at anything IT. Go to a Spanish company’s website & you’ll probably get a pretty picture of their premises,a list of the categories they sell but no details & definitely no prices, a couple of links don’t work & the number of a phone that’s never answered. If you buy from, odds on the seller won’t be in Spain. If they are, your order may arrive (eventually*). It may even be what you ordered.

    *I’ve a parcel left the UK 16 April. Tracking had it received in Spain 19 April. As of Tuesday it is currently in Malaga, the kind lady at the Correos told me. Although their tracking website has it still in Barajas, which is rumoured to be Madrid Airport The response to when I might expect it to journey the 25km along the coast was a shrug.
    The Spanish do not only specialise in IT incompetence. They bring incompetence to areas one wouldn’t consider it possible to be incompetent.

  33. Oh, should have mentioned. Most Spanish company websites have a form where, after completing your name, full address, telephone number, DNI number, date of birth, number of children & their dates of birth, grandmother’s date of birth, height, weight & inside leg measurement, you can type an an enquiry in a box reserved for the purpose. You may well be able to complete this procedure if you happen to be using whichever browser their IT monkey prefers. There is, however, no recorded instance of anyone receiving a response.

  34. See, this is another reason Amazon is hard to beat. They’ve started giving specific delivery date info, “your parcel will be delivered today” reminders, that kind of thing.

    I’ve noticed the other couriers have begun doing similar, though the most recent non-Amazon one told me the actual delivery date on the day of delivery, which ain’t quite so useful as a bit of notice. OTOH, they did let me track where on delivery bloke’s rounds he was and an approx ETA, so I didn’t need to wait around all day in case.

    It’s got a lot better, quickly. Competition, I reckon.

  35. > The only parts of both [French] towns that have parking controls are where it really matters.

    I get the impression that a car left parked on the street in France for more than 24 hours is automatically either stolen or torched. No need for heavy-handed parking regulations in those conditions.

    Not sure if the same applies to countries other than France. I can’t imagine e.g. the Swiss enjoying voiture flambée on a regular basis.

  36. Bloke no Longer in Austria

    Just to add my two pennorth to the people looking up this area up on Google Maps: I often use this retail park ( and others ) in the Ashford region as well as the hospitals.

    The retail park has recently been redeveloped and some new stores have opened where a Homebase and Comet used to be. Elsehere in the park is a Wickes and an industrial/enterprise park across the road. It is surrounded by fields, the railway and I believe an electricity substation.The parking charges are new, introduced by the developers and are one of these private “contracts” – in other words the owners have to take one to a civil court to enforce the charge. There are no commuters as it is a long way to the station and there used to be ample parking on the industrial estate, possibly this situation has changed or I rather suspect a lot of overnight lorry parking might be going on. The vilage of Sevington is on the opposite side of the A2070 and access is blocked to traffic. There is only one road in and out of this park and that is often blocked by lorries, one may only turn left onto the A2070 dual carriageway ( a sort of ring road/bypass) – it is a very busy and fast road. Access from the roundabout on J10 of the M20 is a filter lane on the right hand side of A2070, which tails back some way during busy periods onto the ring road, as the driver has to cross the northbound lanes. There are often long tailbacks approaching the roundabout. The roundabout itself is a disaster with confusing lanes and lights along with the usual East European lorries.

    William Harvey Hospital in Ashford is indeed some way out of town across the J10 M20 roundabout, but it has a normal “take a ticket” car park, I have parked there in excess of 6 hours before now. It serves South Kent, there are also large hospitals at Canterbury and Margate, but of course there are specialisations that the others might not have. The local little hospitals “Minor Injuries Units” are open until 8pm only.

    Where I live, Southeastern Railways expanded the station car park and charge 5squids a day – they obviously bunged the council a few bob, as there are now restrictions to prevent commuters from parking on the adjoining streets.

    The council scored a spectacular victory recently and the people have rejoiced at their foresight and wisdom. There usde to be a free car park down the road. The council imposed a 1.10pound an hour pay and display charge, so people used the streets, or as they are full with cars from workers of a local large employer, usually didn’t bother and footfall on our high street slumped as a result. So now the council have imposed a two-hour maximum restriction and charge residents 30pounds a year if they want to park on the street. The workers have moved to adjacent streets to park, the car park is still empty and so now are our local streets, because visitors won’t run the risk of getting a ticket by overstaying and so still no one visits our high street. Trebles all round !

  37. I think you must be referring, Andrew M, to the culturally enriched suburbs on the outskirts or some French cities. French tend to regard them as foreign war zones, not to be entered & not part of France. Most French towns you could leave your car with the keys in the ignition & the windows open for a month & return to find it safe.
    Although I did have a car broken into outside the Lille apartment & items stolen. The police, when informed for insurance purposes, regarded it as a “serious matter” took descriptions of the culprits from neighbours – “of Arab appearance” – & insisted in fingerprinting the entire car. They then apologised for the inconvenience of both the robbery & that of the evidence collection *& said that, although I was unlikely to regain my possessions I’d done a service to the community because they’d probably detain the (untranslatable) on another offence & have the pleasure of pinning this one on them as well.
    There might be a connection here.

  38. The French are also brilliant at building massive, hidden underground car parks bang in the middle of towns and cities, even very old ones, and charging not very much for people to use them.

  39. @Cynic, May 10, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    A little cultural question: do you know if the French and Spanish internet-shop as much as the English?

    I saw an article in past couple of weeks confirming UK is still world leader for online shopping and greens moaning about diesel delivery vans.

    Think it was DM.

  40. greens moaning about diesel delivery vans.

    The Greens will moan about anything which indicates any sort of prosperity for the working classes. Their entire movement is a hatred of modern working class prosperity disguised as a Progressive movement.

  41. The Greens hate anything that isn’t within their view of ‘Green’. Including other Greens who are not Green enough.

  42. Pingback: French v British Car Parking | White Sun of the Desert

  43. BiS;
    I think you may have got my point almost bass ackwards; from the point of view of the developer, it’s​ got nothing to do with the tenant’s footfall volumes, only the rent (yield) being achieved. From the tenant’s view point, people sitting in the café or aimlessly wandering around are effectively “bed blocking”, preventing other customers coming in (by utilising the car park). They want to the buggers to move on as quickly as possible.

    Whatever the reason, it’s too easy to create a death spiral, in which the parking charge is never removed, but manages to become more obviously insane regardless.

  44. Andrew M
    >That’s partly to get better resource use, but also because it’s what staff increasingly want.

    I suspect that “increasingly” is the result of the other, uh, benefits that you point out, with the staff realising this only after they’ve been on the larger sites for a bit. Not a real driver for it, though.

  45. BiS; it’s not that the parking charge is introduced in response to declining customer footfall, in order to recover lost revenue; it’s that the charge is introduced for another reason, before footfall declines, and that it subsequently causes the decline, and thus contributes to the conditions needed for a death spiral to begin.

    Generally; it’s​ too easy to lose custom; having lost it, it’s bloody difficult to get it back, even if you can avoid shooting yourself in the foot as well.

    It’s something I’ve seen a lot of recently (and older friends have seen it in the Eighties and Nineties, probably even earlier, so it’s not a New Thing) with pubs and The Death of The Great British High Street.

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