A PROFESSOR has been slapped with a fine after failing to pay to park in a disabled bay – despite using a blue badge.
Philip Hodgson, 57, was visiting a restaurant with his elderly father and stepmother when the parking ticket was dished out.
Philip's 84-year-old stepmother suffers from Parkinson's, while his 87-year-old father has a degenerative eye disease.
The criminology professor used his stepmother's blue badge to park in the disabled bay on June 3 when they visited Trenchers restaurant in Spanish City, Whitley Bay.
The 57-year-old said he did not believe he needed to pay to use the disabled bay as they are usually free, and was surprised to be handed a £60 parking fine two weeks later.
If he does not pay the fine from HX Car Park Management Ltd, which operates the car park, the ticket will increase to £120.
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Philip, who is also a Dean at Leeds Trinity University, told Newcastle Chronicle: "I think it's wrong. I think it's so unusual for a company to charge for disabled parking.
"Normally with disabled parking you get it for free. Do they not welcome people who are disabled or encourage disabled people to come?
"I rang Spanish City and they're not bothered at all. It's done through HX Parking.
"I just feel a bit disappointed. I think Spanish City has got this one wrong."
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The car park at the front of Spanish City in Whitley Bay was previously free for everyone.
However, HX Car Park Management LTD began managing the car park on March 15 after being granted planning permission by North Tyneside Council.
The parking company said they installed clear signage and a pay and display machine, as well as the option to pay using RingGo.
But Philip said signs at the site, which say there is no free parking, were not clearly visible.
He said that had he realised there was a charge he would have paid the required fee, which he believes would have been no more than £2.
"I wasn't trying to avoid paying, I just didn't know" he added.
Philip, who lives in Sheffield, received the ticket while visiting his dad and stepmother, who live in Monkseaton.
He said that the couple had visited Spanish City before and had previously parked in the disabled bay with their blue badge without any issue.
I don't want anybody else to fall foul of this… I won't go back
A spokesperson for HX Car Park Management said: "There is a sign in front of the disabled bays to state that the tariff applies to blue badge holders.
It also states in the “Blue Badge Rights and Responsibilities” leaflet issued by the government that blue badge holders are still required to check signage in all car parks, especially private ones, and should not assume that they can park for free."
The company has urged those who do not want to pay for disabled bays to park in the nearby car park operated by North Tyneside Council.
They said: "There is a council car park to the right of Spanish City Plaza that offers free parking for blue badge holders.
If they do not wish to pay to park, which is understandable, they have the option to park there. It is not unusual for private car parks to charge for disabled drivers; most do."
Spanish City said the car park was granted by planning permission by the local authority, and that signs are visible in the car park and throughout the area.
A spokesperson said: "The car park at Spanish City is a private car park managed by HX Car Park Management Ltd, which uses an ANPR camera system to identify users of the car park and was installed in March 2022.
"In line with the planning permission that was granted by North Tyneside Council earlier this year, there is clear signage present throughout the car park (including a sign immediately in front of the disabled bays) stating the parking tariff applies to Blue Badge Holders."
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A spokesperson from North Tyneside Council added: "HX Parking are responsible for the private parking lot at Spanish City.
It is not within the Council's remit of planning to review the content of signage, the fees charged or how the system is used by HX Parking. Blue badge holders can find free disabled parking bays in the Council run parking lot to the right hand side upon entering Spanish City."
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