Landowner defends complaints of Branscombe car park system after fines

Branscombe car parking. Ref shb 26-16AW 1126. Picture: Alex Walton

Branscombe car parking. Ref shb 26-16AW 1126. Picture: Alex Walton - Credit: Archant

Concerned visitors issued with a £100 fine after using a Branscombe car park have hit out at the system, with many saying they will ‘never’ visit the village again.

Tourists from Sidmouth, Budleigh Salterton, Wales, Dorset and Exeter have received a letter from Premier Parks Ltd for overstaying or not paying for a ticket in the facility on Branscombe beach, despite saying they paid.

The firm is authorised by landowner Anthony Sellick to manage the camera-operated private car park and reduces the charge to £60 if paid within 14 days.

Mr Sellick has defended the system, saying it will ‘take the stress out’ of paying compared to a pay-and-display car park, as users do not have to rush back to their vehicle if they exceed their time - instead they can ‘top up’ at the machine before they leave.

Leo Dickinson said he will fight the parking charge notice handed to him saying he stayed for three hours and 21 minutes when he visited in May.

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He said his friend Eddie Birch, who was visiting Devon for the first time, paid £3 for three hours on his debit card plus an additional 30pence card fee. He added they left the car park within their allotted time.

Mr Dickinson said that the car park had attracted a number of bad reviews on websites like TripAdvisor.

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He continued: “It’s not just that person that’s annoyed; if they put it on TripAdvisor it might be hundreds of people.”

Mr Birch added the fine has left him ‘with a nasty taste in my mouth’.

Peter Davis, from Silverton Exeter, said: “I won’t go back there. I will go to Beer instead.”

Matthew Pallister, from Sherborne, said his celebratory lunch in April was marred by the fine, which he paid when it was reduced to £30 by Premier Park Ltd.

He said: “After such unfair treatment, I am £30 down in pocket but £30 worth wiser. I have absolutely no intention of revisiting Branscombe and I would suggest that if other visitors are receiving the same treatment by Premier Park Ltd, Brancombe’s tourist trade is going to greatly decline.”

Paul Ryder from Sidmouth said he paid £2 when he visited the site on June 21 with his uncle, who was visiting from Australia. He stayed for 40 minutes and said he was shocked to receive a letter claiming he had not paid. The Howarth Close resident said he did not receive a ticket.

He added: “This has caused me considerable distress and I feel helpless in defending myself. I know I made payment, I always pay. I’m concerned that as an area heavily reliant on tourism, this sort of thing creates a poor representation on what is an otherwise welcoming and friendly area.”

The camera-operated system, which was installed in February, takes an image of each vehicle as it enters and leaves the car park. Users pay for a ticket using cash and card and also have to input their registration number.

After pressing a green tick button, the machine will print a receipt. Drivers do not have to display the ticket on their dashboard and can stay longer in the car park as long as they ‘top up’ the difference before they leave.

Mr Sellick said if customers do not confirm payment by pressing the green tick, the machine will return the money.

Staff carry out routine checks on the machine and any change found will be recorded in a diary with an estimated time, in case of a complaint.

Mr Sellick said: “We do our best to sort out complaints. I think this system will prove to be good in the end as people will get use to it.

“We are not asking them to over pay like the hospital where you do not know if you are paying for half-an-hour or three hours. This way it takes the stress out.”

The businessman added that if customers had queries they could drop into the Sea Shanty office, which is located in the car park.

Katie Harris, joint owner of the adjoining Sea Shanty Beach Cafe, has told the Herald that the business has received complaints about the facility but said the cafe is separate to Mr Sellick’s business.

In a post on Facebook the business said: “You may be aware that there is a new ticketing system in the Branscombe Beach car park. Unfortunately some people have received fines, are understandably upset and angry and have been contacting us to vent their anger.

“The car park is not connected to The Sea Shanty Beach Café, it is an entirely separate business.

“Unfortunately we can only offer to forward any complaints to the staff of the car park in the small brick office behind the cafe who can be contacted on 01297 680 226. They will be happy to help you to make sure that you have entered the right information into the ticket machine to avoid fines incurred due to human error.

“We hope that you will not be affected by this and have a wonderful time on Branscombe Beach.”

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