Resident warns other drivers about parking rules at a Crawley retail park after receiving £60 fine

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A former Crawley resident has warned other drivers about parking rules at County Oak retail park after being fined for staying too long - and branded the operating company’s practice ‘disgusting’.

Sarah Middleton, who lived in Maidenbower during the incident but now lives in Greater Manchester, spent more than three hours at the retail park on January 24 meeting a friend just before she moved away from the area.

The 34-year-old received a £60 fine through her door from Group Nexus, the company which runs the car park - but says her friend didn’t get a fine even though she stayed for the same amount of time.

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Group Nexus said the rules are clear with 30 signs and it uses an automated system and manual checks to pick up offenders who exceed the time limit.

Sarah Middleton with her Penalty Charge NoticeSarah Middleton with her Penalty Charge Notice
Sarah Middleton with her Penalty Charge Notice

Ms Middleton said: “I visited the Costa in County Oak for over three hours to have lunch with my friend.

“The lunch lasted quite a while as I was about to move away from the area and this would be the last time I would be seeing my friend for some time.

“Neither of us knew the time limit for parking there, and we stayed over the limit. We appreciate this was our unfortunate fault, but cutting our lunch date short purely to appease a private parking rule seems unreasonable.”

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After receiving the fine, Mrs Middleton said: “Group Nexus seem to pick and choose who they fine, despite us both exceeding the limit.”

Ms Middleton has appealed the fine stressing she did not leave the area and was using the facilities, but that was rejected by Group Nexus.

Ms Middleton said: “They have since told me they won't communicate with me any further and I have received a threatening letter warning that debt collectors could be coming for me. The charge has now risen to £100 and will be more if debt collectors get involved.

“This kind of practice is disgusting. I shared my experience on Facebook and other members of the community shared similar stories.”

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A Group Nexus spokesperson said: “First of all, let me assure you and your reader that we do not 'pick and choose' the vehicles whose keepers receive a parking charge.

“Whilst we manually check the pictures to ensure that the images and the registration are correct, it is an automated system that presents potential offenders to be checked.

“There are a number of reasons that could explain why the cameras did not register the other vehicle's registration and thus did not receive a charge.

“The terms and conditions for parking are simple as set out on the signs in the car park - there is an ample three hour maximum stay time on this site and this is set in consultation with the landowner, taking into consideration the number and type of facilities on the site.

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“There are 30 signs throughout the car park to make visitors aware of the terms and that a parking charge will be issued if the terms are not adhered to.”

And in regards to the ‘threatening’ letter the company sent, the Group Nexus spokesperson said: “All we do is say if you don’t pay this, we may take you to court and it may end up costing you more money. We are not threatening to send round bailiffs or the heavy mob. It's the process we go through.

“As a company we try to do the right thing, we are not cowboys, we are one of the leading providers in the UK. What we are trying to do is protect parking for our clients, landowners based on the rules and regulations they want to put in place.”

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