Problems with New Garages, Gas-Leak Trilogy, ‘Mr. Shooter’
Storm clouds seem to be gathering over the carpark design and construction world on this side of the pond, with problems reported at two major nearly new UK carparks. At a shopping center in the Midlands, it seems that there has had to be major work on what is, by industry standards, a “young” car park. More worrying are reports that one opened in 2011 at Gatwick airport has been closed for remedial work, which allegedly will cost millions. Watch this space.
Last month, I told PT readers about a gas leak outside my house. I assumed that with a couple of days of necessary inconvenience, which would inevitably generate mild irritation, the job would be done, and we could all get on with our lives. After all, it’s a gas leak, one careless cigarette butt and boom! Instead, it has the makings of a long-running saga that could outlast “Game of Thrones,” although with rather less nudity and violence.
To recap last month’s episode: There is a small gas leak on the other side of the road; the gas company plans to totally replace the gas pipes; but it cannot do this until the leak in the old pipe is fixed. Don’t ask.
Anywho, the original hole was joined by an adjacent larger hole dug by the contractors who are replacing the gas pipe. Two organizations are now involved. The gas company, which uses gray barriers, has to fix the leak. The contractors, who use red barriers, will replace the pipe when it’s fixed.
After a couple of weeks, the red hole was closed and sealed, but the gray hole remained — alone, unloved and unvisited for about five weeks. Then, in the sixth week, I came home to find the gray team digging a new hole on my side of the road.
Now wait a minute: The original gas-sniffing man was categorical that the leak was on the inferior side of the road and that our pipes were “shipshape and Bristol fashion,” so why this sudden invasion of our side?
The avuncular gasman who was watching his colleague dig explained it to me, sort of. The leaking pipe is more than 6 feet down, and they are worried about digging down that far down “over there.” Therefore, they are digging my side of the border to find another piece of the local network.
When they find the tight gas pipe on my side of the road, they will cut a hole in it — that sounds scary — and insert a special tube that will be fed through to the leak to spray some kind of sealant inside the leaking pipe. The avuncular gas man proudly told me that he was qualified to operate this magic wand, and the equipment would arrive shortly. This “special operative” was obviously a man of substance, worthy of respect, and so I offered him and his digger coffee.
Since then, not a lot has happened. On my side of the road, they came back and made the hole bigger, but no sign of the magic pipe-fixing tool. On the other side of the road, more people came and made the hole a lot bigger, closed the footway and fenced it off completely with 6-foot barriers. These are festooned with warning signs saying, “No Smoking” — something which should have perhaps been there on Day One. They then went away.
So, after about eight weeks, we have two holes and a lot of barriers and a gas leak. I asked what I thought was an obvious question: “Since the gas pipe was going to be replaced anyway, why not just lay the new pipe and abandon the leaking pipe?” The answer made no sense at all.
What has this to do with parking?
I live right on a 90-degree bend in a road that is about 19 feet wide. Twice a day, the street outside my house is parked solidly, both sides right round the corner, by parents delivering or collecting kids from the local school. One-way traffic is just about possible, but drivers from both directions drive into the corner with their brains in neutral, meaning that screaming brakes, stopping and reversing, is commonplace. The holes are right on the bend and intrude into the road, meaning that it is only a matter of time before I have to call the ambulance.
Meanwhile, one of our senior police officers seems to have scored a bit of an “own goal” by criticizing how some of his officers had parked a police van. The van had been parked across two bays, and Chief Constable Steven Kavanagh tweeted a picture of the van criticizing the officer concerned because his action “fell below” the high standards he expected from his officers.
Or did it? Other officers were quick to point out that had the van parked between the lines, then the driver in the adjacent space would not have room to open his door, while others expressed concern at the chief constable’s priorities, given the many and serious problems facing our police services.
I have commented before that, as a result of government intervention in the private UK parking business, the whole system is now a mess. Nowhere is this better illustrated than the case of a Mr. Dave Shooter, 65, a retired head teacher from Derby. He drove into a privately operated public carpark and spent, he said, 11 minutes looking for a space. The carpark was full, so he gave up and parked elsewhere.
A few days later, he got a $90 bill in the mail for not paying. The company was unhelpful when he explained the situation, and does not appear to have gone into too much detail about his right of appeal. The threat of prosecution parted Mr. Shooter from his cash, and created yet another bad news story for our industry.
The failure of the company concerned to offer any word of justification kind of makes me suspect that, if its actions had any validity, it would have defended itself.
The law is clear: If the company were selling parking but couldn’t offer parking to the customer, it has no right to charge for it. However, the government’s interference means that the company can assert its right to recover a debt — which didn’t actually exist — and bluff the driver to pay up!