In March 2017 a new parking system was introduced at the Townlands site covering the Memorial Hospital, Care Home and GP surgeries.
In August 2018 lay members of the Clinical Commissioning Group, including members of the Townlands Steering Group (TSG), met with NHS Property Services to discuss the problems with parking at Townlands. This had been highlighted for months by the TSG and the Henley Standard campaign “Not So Smart Parking”. Patients, residents driving through the site and others were incorrectly issued tickets by the faulty Smart Parking Technology. Appeals against these were nearly impossible due to the impenetrable Smart Parking system, and many paid up rather than risk being taken to court.
Appeals to the independent parking regulator POPLA reported that Smart Parking cancelled 75.5% of charges at this stage, i.e. failing to defend the appeal. This demonstrates that the Smart Parking strategy, which is simply to refuse to settle at earlier stages whatever the evidence, is cynical and unreasonable. There were many other technical breaches the most serious of which were failures to obtain planning permission for the cameras (which are in a conservation area), and failure to obtain advertising consent for the notices. These were reported to SODC as the planning authority.
TSG chair Councillor Ian Reissmann consolidated a list of the problems and these were presented to NHS Property Services at the August meeting. NHS PS agreed that the situation was unacceptable, and informed us that a new nationwide contract was about to be issued, and that the contract with Smart Parking would be terminated. A retrospective Planning Application was made by Smart Parking, but the issuing of penalty notices stopped.
On 24 April 2019 NHS PS announced that an interim operator was to take over at Townlands and Smart Parking would be removed immediately.
The TSG completely accept the need to manage parking at the Townlands site (Hospital, Care Home and GP surgeries), and will be working with NHS PS and the new operator (when appointed) to ensure that the new parking scheme works in the interested of patients, staff and residents. NHS PS have already agreed that the new scheme will operate without the perverse incentives applying to Smart Parking in which all the fines go to the operator giving them an incentive to operate the scheme unfairly by issuing excessive and incorrect penalty notices.
The TSG has always taken the view that engaging with NHS organisations is the best way to maintain and improve services. The Henley Standard campaign was a big help in ensuring NHS PS understood and accepted there was a problem. We will be continuing to work with the various stakeholders to ensure a permanent solution to parking management at Townlands that safeguards the needs of patients and residents.
Cllr Ian Reissmann