Comment: Of parks and parking...

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The absence of any early windy weather has led to some spectacular days across East Renfrewshire with remarkable displays of autumn colour.

Frankly it all seems a bit sudden, given that we only really had a summer to speak of after the schools’ went back in the second half of August and through September, but it’s welcome for all that.

Next weekend marks the change to “winter time” and the popular seasonal calendar of Halloween, Guy Fawkes night and then the run into Christmas.

All across Eastwood we have seen many new independent shops, cafes and restaurants blossom and they add a great deal to community life — we need them, so visit them...often!

We had an interesting debate in the Scottish Parliament after the summer led by my colleague Murdo Fraser MSP on the charges levied by private car parks.

He has had some deeply concerned local constituents in receipt of huge fines and I have had quite a few enquiries about these charges as well.

Firstly let me make it clear that we should all pay for parking where charges exist.

However, what I do not support are the bully-boy tactics employed by some private car parks and you should know that despite the very formal appearance of the parking charge notices issued, private car parks are not legally entitled to issue disproportionate fines.

In July Citizens Advice Scotland released an important addition to its It’s not Fine campaign and that was a report detailing a legal opinion on the rules for challenging a privately issued parking ticket in Scotland.

This legal advice has made it crystal clear that parking companies can only issue charges that are commensurate with the losses they have incurred as a result of a driver overstaying their welcome.

For instance if parking cost £1 an hour and you are issued with a so called “Parking Charge Notice” of £60 you would need to have been parked there for 60 hours to justify the charge.

In all circumstances keep your receipt.

Many of the automatic machines require you to enter your registration and this will not be valid if say, you accidentally enter a zero instead of an ‘O’.

Your ticket will be proof of your payment. And don’t accept a reduction. You do not need to pay the ridiculous penalty.

It’s a growing issue. Citizen’s Advice Scotland saw a 50 per cent increase in calls to their helpline relating to private parking issues.

That said many operators do adhere to the British Parking Association code of conduct and all signage should be easily seen with the terms and conditions of parking as clear as possible. Incoherent signs and illegible small print are not part of the deal.

In response to the debate the Scottish Government made clear it is keeping a close eye on events.

Increasing awareness for motorists will ensure fewer people are duped into paying incorrectly issued tickets and will also help drivers recognise their obligations when parking privately, for example above the shops on the roof top car park in Clarkston.