Saturday, 19 April 2014

No more shafting in Shaftesbury Road car park

With JD Wetherspoon's new beer garden sprouting up this Spring, a nasty trap for drivers in Whitstable has been literally buried beneath the earth.
You'll remember that several motorists complained that they were being 'shafted' in Shaftesbury Road car park. In each case, they had diligently paid for a ticket, returned to the car within their allotted timespan, and been astounded to find a penalty charge notice awaiting them.
The problem was that, rather than being one council-run car park as could have been easily assumed from the large notices, the area was in fact invisibly divided into three: two council areas sandwich a piece of land owned by Wetherspoon's (behind its Peter Cushing pub) which has been operated over the last two or three years as a general car park with its own pay machine.
Time and again, people who left their cars on the council land were using the 'wrong' machine, then being penalised for 'failing' to pay. One annoyed motorist set up a blog to vent his frustration and, as you can see from the comments, several others recounted similar experiences.
In December, Peter Smythe from Herne Bay learned that his legal appeal against a £50 fine had been won when - as the Whitstable Times reported - Canterbury City Council backed down and accepted that the situation was 'confusing'.
Now Spoon's have solved the problem by constructing their long-planned beer garden on half of their car park, and appear to intend the rest of the land to be for staff cars (see photos). The beer garden is behind the new fence.

This solution has been a long time coming because of rights of way issues. There is an established footpath along the back of the Peter Cushing building which neighbours pointed out would be swallowed up by the pub garden. This threatened to delay the pub opening in 2011 and so the outdoor seating plan was temporarily withdrawn and replaced with the car park. Later, the pub chain reiterated its desire for outdoor seating and a certificate of lawful usage was granted by CCC more than a year ago (planning permission being deemed to be not necessary).

Hopefully drinkers, motorists and residents will now be happy.

The downside is that the loss of any general parking spaces is something Whitstable can ill afford. Park and ride, anyone?

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