PATIENTS fined for parking illegally in a Rotherham medical centre car park are furious because they say they were not warned about new restrictions.
The car park at the former Doncaster Gate Hospital site, which is at the centre of the backlash, was partially taken over by Rotherham Borough Council last year when staff moved into empty office space there.
Civil enforcement officers working for the authority were deployed to patrol the council’s parking area a month ago and have issued 43 £60 tickets.
Now patients from the GP surgeries at the health centre have hit out, claiming that they were not informed about the changes and criticising the lack of signs in the car park.
Health centre staff are also worried that non-patients are parking in the health centre’s bays, leaving patients no choice but to park in the restricted council area.
Denis Harwood (78), of Whiston Vale, has been parking as a patient at the site for five-and-a-half years and recently got a £60 parking ticket.
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He said: “I’ve been parking in the same place every day for a number of years. I never expected that I would suddenly get a parking ticket.
“Signs have gone up but nobody has noticed them. I warned a woman she would get a ticket the other day. She was parked directly underneath one of them and she didn’t even see it.
“There were four other cars with parking tickets on them too near where we parked so it’s not just me and it must be a problem.
“Nobody does this on purpose and nobody wants to be paying a £60 fine.
“It’s terrible to think that when you go in for treatment you come out with a ticket on your car.”
Mr Harwood insisted: “We should have been given a warning, either verbal or written, because it never occurred to me to look high up on a lamppost for signs to tell us of the changes.”
The health centre car park has 165 spaces and the borough council’s allocation is an additional 69 for visitors and authorised permit holders.
A spokeswoman for the borough council said that the allocation was made “to ensure there were sufficient spaces for legitimate users and not individuals using the site for other purposes.”
She added: “The council spaces are not at the rear of the site but situated around the sides and at the front of the building.
“Signage warns vehicle users of the enforcement and advises people where to park.
“Council staff have been warned on numerous occasions via internal bulletins that enforcement will take place if they continue to park on the Doncaster Gate site without the necessary permit.
“The remaining 165 spaces are for use by the health trust, which has installed a parking barrier but has not been activated.
"We would advise all patients using the health centre at the rear of the Doncaster Gate site to double check with the practise where the free parking for the centre is located."
Dorothy Hardcastle from NHS Rotherham apologised for any inconvenience to patients, particularly for failure to notify patients of the planned date of enforcement.
But she said that surgeries were not told about the enforcements and added: “As soon as we were aware fines were being imposed upon patients, we implemented appropriate signage within the practice, to warn them not to park in council bays.
“The issues of improvements to signage, bollards and the use of barriers for patient parking should be resolved within the next few weeks.
“We would like to take this opportunity to remind our patients to use the dedicated barrier patient parking bays only, as other bays on the site are now for council use only.”