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Preston woman slapped with fine after driving 92-year-old dad to hospital

Posted on - 10th May, 2024 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Fulwood, Health, Preston News, Sharoe Green
Royal Preston Hospital car park
Royal Preston Hospital

A Preston woman who was hit with a fine after taking her disabled dad to hospital and using a blue badge car park is warning others not to get caught in the same trap.

Michelle Woodburn drove her 92-year-old father – who has only one eye and needs a walking frame – to the Royal Preston for an appointment last month.

She parked in a car park reserved solely for blue badge holders like her dad – and even paid for the privilege on the way out.

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However, days later, the family received a £70 penalty charge notice in the post – and were told that they had failed to “obtain a valid permit/authorisation” to use the area known as Car Park C.

The same fate had befallen Michelle’s brother when he had accompanied their dad to hospital just a couple of weeks earlier. He was in the process of challenging the fine, issued by the firm that operates the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble Hospital’s car parks, when the second one arrived.   Both were at a loss as to why they had been slapped with a ticket.

“As far as we were concerned, we were doing everything right. When my brother disputed the fine, they said that they wouldn’t accept it unless he actually sent a picture of the blue badge.

“We were like, ‘Why is this happening?’ My dad’s clearly disabled – and the badge was displayed and we had paid to park.

“Someone [later told us that blue badge holders] could register up to three vehicles for free parking, but we weren’t wanting [that], we were quite happy to pay – yet we were still getting tickets,” Michelle explained.

However, it seems their generosity and willingness to waive their entitlement was their undoing.  By not registering the car they had arrived in, there was no record of it being eligible to use the disabled-only parking facility.

Displaying the badge had not spared them a ticket, because enforcement of the car park rules is done largely by CCTV rather than in-person patrols – and the camera kit detects number plates, not blue badges placed in the windscreen.

Both fines have now been cancelled by the hospital trust, but Michelle believes she and her brother cannot be the only people to have fallen foul of the system – and some might not have had the courage to question the penalty charges.

“If it was just my mum and dad, they’d freak out.  [People of their age] might just pay it, which would be a scandal.

“Not everybody has access to going online [to read the rules],” Michelle added.

She acknowledged that she had not noticed a sign in the car park about the requirement for registration, but said that was because she was not looking for one – having assumed that paying up and displaying the badge meant she and her dad had complied with every possible rule.

Nevertheless, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LTH) says it is now reviewing the wording of that signage in light of Michelle’s case to make it clear that registration is mandatory – and cannot be substituted for payment in situations such as when people are in a rush to get to their appointment.

An LTH spokesperson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Initially, all blue badge holders need to register their vehicle(s) at Royal Preston Hospital’s General Office. Registration will then last until the expiration date of [the] blue badge and also, during this time, provide eligibility for free parking.

“For those looking to register their vehicle out-of-hours (evenings and weekends), please email a photograph of your blue badge (both sides) and your vehicle registration details to CarPark.HelpDesk@lthtr.nhs.uk and the team will register your vehicle for free parking.

“We will review the signage of Blue Badge Car Park C to ensure the correct procedure is clear for future patients and visitors.”

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