BPA, PIE, PCN, NCP, and the Magna Carta


BPA, PIE, PCN, NCP, and the Magna Carta

 It’s that time of year when the British Parking Awards hove into view just a few weeks before we head off to Chicago for PIE 2015, sponsored by Parking Today. Last year, it was what we tourists call “brass monkey” weather (if you need this explained, you’re too young), and my camera actually stopped working. Hopefully, PIE 2015 will be warmer.
Once again, for the BPA, I am judging “new and refurbished carparks,” and once again, I am surprised at how badly some companies build carparks and still get paid! 
One contender had been open only a few months, but there was water ponding all over the top deck and the deck finish is already lifting. Does no one go and look before they pay the bill? On the upside, no winner yet as of this writing, but I have already seen one or two that are serious contenders.
During one visit, I was shown a marvelous toy called a Car Finder. These have been around for a while and allow a driver to put their license plate into a terminal and it tells you about where in the carpark you have parked. 
Up to now, the systems have been zonal, so if you enter your license plate, you are sent to an area with perhaps 50 cars in it. The system I was shown has a camera for each parking space, allowing a car to be tracked to an exact stall.
To test the system, I feigned stupid and gave the operator the color, an approximate arrival time and two characters from the license plate. It took less than two minutes to find in a carpark with 1,500 vehicles in it. I’m impressed.
Meanwhile, once again a local authority here in the UK makes headlines for absolutely the wrong reasons. 
Ben O’Hara parked in Penzance in Cornwall and paid for an hour’s parking expiring at 15.15 hours. He returned, before the time expired, to find a citation for having overstayed, timed at 15.12 hours. He has told the Council, and the Press. 
Has the Council blushed, apologized and cancelled the ticket? 
No. A spokesperson said: 
“If a vehicle owner considers a penalty charge notice (PCN) to have been issued incorrectly, they may make an informal challenge to the Council. If they are not satisfied with the result, they may make formal representation; and if they are still not satisfied, they may take the case to the independent adjudicator, the Traffic Penalty Tribunal. We encourage anyone not satisfied with the issue of a PCN to take full advantage of the process open to them.” 
Thank god! If they had applied common sense, someone might have actually got a positive view of our industry, and that would never do. 
Of course, we can be absolutely certain that the ticket was not issued incorrectly because someone couldn’t be “arsed” to do their job properly, or because they had a quota to fill, or because they thought no one would notice. I’m sure there is a reasonable explanation; just struggling to think of it at the moment.
Elsewhere, Britain’s biggest parking operator, National Car Parks (NCP), has similarly been slated for issuing dodgy citations by that exemplar of the highest ethical standards in journalism, The Daily Mail. The newspaper was supposedly “reporting” that MP Robert Halfon said that NCP had been issuing tickets to people who placed their pay-and-display tickets “in the wrong place” or parking in the wrong space in a carpark. 
Now don’t get me wrong. NCP has form, and in the past has done some pretty reprehensible things, but what I did notice in reading this splenetic attack on the company was that, as reported in the Mail, there was a total lack of any evidence. Not a single fact, nothing, nada. 
It seems someone parked somewhere at some time and got an unfair ticket. Not really worth half a page in a national paper, unless you have an agenda, of course.
Tempus fugit – sadly.
A hundred years ago, when I was on the board of the British Parking Association (BPA), we had to make a difficult decision about what to do with our library. John Foster, a founding father of the BPA, edited the association’s journal and had accumulated a vast store of conference papers, magazines, letters, books and all the things that provide source material. 
The association was making the transformation from John’s back bedroom to a real office, with an editor for the magazine, and Mrs. John was becoming “difficult” about having several tons of paper as a houseguest. 
The BPA had to decide how to (a) save John’s marriage, and (b) preserve the material. We found the perfect solution in The Kithead Trust, which is an educational charity set up by people from the UK bus industry to preserve material following the breakup of the National Bus Co. in 1986.
Kithead had progressively expanded its remit to include all transport and so, with a contribution as sweetener, it happily took in the BPA material, which filled two bookcases some 15-foot square. That’s a lot of paper. Sadly as more and more organizations saw the trust as an easy way of preserving their historical papers, it began to run out of space, and some hard decisions had to be made. 
The Kithead Trust has refocused back on the bus industry, and is looking to move on any non-bus material to other bodies with a more specific interest. This inevitably meant that the BPA was asked if it wanted their stuff back. 
No one knew what was there, and so as one of the eldest surviving members of the association, I got delegated to sort it all out. Trawling through the papers raised many ghosts, and it was particularly sad to think of the hours and days that John had spent pulling all this together. But, it had to be done, and after some hard choices, I was left with just four boxes of papers that I felt were worth keeping.
Talking of archives, I am sure you know about Magna Carta, the charter of rights drawn up at Runnymede, near Windsor, on June 15, 1215, over the seal of King John (he never actually signed it), which forms the root of both our legal systems. 
There were thought to be just four copies extant, which are on display here in London to mark the 800th anniversary of Runnymede. Now, someone has just hauled a further copy of a 1300 version of Magna Carta out of the town archives of the historic port of Sandwich in Kent. 
Estimated value, $15.2 million. The town intends to keep the document as a tourist attraction.
Peter Guest, a Consultant in the UK, is PT’s Editor-at-Large on all things British, European, Middle Eastern and Indian. Contact him at peterguestparking@hotmail.co.uk.

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