Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail’s chief investigator on Sunday, battling the reader’s corners, revealing the truth behind closed doors and achieving victories for those who haven’t made money. Read below how to contact him.
Mrs NL writes: While visiting Kilve Beach in Somerset we discovered that Premier Park Limited’s car park was monitored by number plate cameras. We tried to pay but neither of the two machines accepted coins.
A sign said payment by phone but this is rural Somerset and we couldn’t get a signal. Not everyone can pay by phone anyway. We were concerned about not paying, so we left.
Two weeks later we were fined £60. We discovered that we are not the only victims of Premier Park, whose tactics are disgraceful. I will not visit this area again.
Idyll: but drivers are furious about Kilve Beach’s parking problem
Tony Hetherington replies: Anyone thinking of visiting Kilve Beach would do well to check out complaints online to avoid getting caught. One driver summed it up: ‘Went to parking lot to find no vending machine, drove back to vending machine, paid for ticket, then drove back to parking lot with my ticket – fined a few days later for no ticket.’ Another wrote: ‘This ruined our day out – will tell everyone we know not to bother returning.’
This is because when you first arrive there is a small car park with machines and cameras, but the car park leads down a lane to a second car park on the beach. This is where drivers find themselves having to go back to the first parking spot to pay or leave. And the time it takes for all of this could mean you’re treated by the cameras as if you arrived, parked, didn’t pay, and then left.
Kilve Parish Council has described a ‘horrific tidal wave of ill feeling’ that this has caused. Councilor Bruce Eyley told me, “It’s 285 yards from the parking lot closest to the beach, to the ticket machines.” He wants the cameras and machines to be moved, with payment facilities in both parking lots.
The parking fees are intended to fund garbage collection, site maintenance and public toilets. But Councilor Eyley described the toilets as ‘really awful – you’d have to be desperate to use them’.
The parking lots belong to the East Quantoxhead Estate, beyond which lies the local landowners Luttrell family. I invited Hugh Luttrell to comment on the way the car park is managed by his agent, Premier Park, but he was silent.
Premier Park also declined to comment on the record, but did claim that other drivers paid on the day you were at Kilve Beach. The company explained that the location for the machines and cameras was chosen by their customer and that the only power supply is at the first access point, with no power in the parking lot on the beach.
Drivers have ten minutes to arrive, read the signs and prices, drive down the lane to the beach, find that there are no machines there, decide to leave, rejoin the narrow lane and go past the cameras . Stick around longer and you’ll be fined. There are no signs at the entrance warning of the lack of machines along the track.
Kilve Beach is a prime example of what the government described as the inherent dishonesty of private companies using misleading and confusing signage, along with unreasonable fees designed to extort money from motorists.
These were the government’s own words last February when the Ministry of Landscaping, Housing and Communities launched its code of practice for private parking. Just four months later, it “temporarily” suspended the entire scheme. A few days ago I asked the department to tell me the state of affairs. What is happening? How long should a temporary suspension last? It has not responded or made any comment.
AXA travel policy that is incorrect
EJ writes: I am a member of the National Association of Retired Police Officers, through which I have been paying premiums for travel insurance with Axa for over 20 years.
The main reason for renewing the cover every year is Axa’s promise that the cover would last regardless of my age.
However, Axa went back on his promise and would not renew the policy after June 30 of this year.
Change of heart: Axa kept his promise and would not renew EJ’s policy beyond June 30 this year
Tony Hetherington replies: You have told me that you are 88, and your wife 80, and that you can no longer travel because of the cost of the insurance. Your Axa policy will cost around £800 a year, but you will now receive quotes up to £10,500 a year.
The formulation of the Axa policy is interesting. It reads: ‘You can take the travel insurance until you are 85 and you will remain on the travel policy as long as you continue to pay the premium and there is no interruption of cover.’ But it doesn’t say that Axa has to provide a policy to join you.
In fact, Axa pushed you to pay premium for over 20 years by implying that the policy would still be there, but it was never a legal requirement to keep the policy on the market.
A spokeswoman told me she understands how disappointed you are, but added that the policy was “a one-year itinerary,” with no obligation on you or Axa to continue it indefinitely. As a consolation prize, Axa has sent you £100 worth of Marks & Spencer shopping vouchers.
If you believe you have been the victim of financial misconduct, please write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the large number of questions, no personal answers can be given. Only send copies of original documents, which unfortunately cannot be returned.
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