Thousands of motorists have been caught out by new extended charging hours for Birmingham city centre car parking.
The city council has been accused of bringing in the changes “through the back door” after charging hours in the city centre were extended in November to include evenings and Sundays.
Motorists must now pay to park from 8am to 7.30pm every day while single yellow line waiting restrictions were also extended until 7.30pm.
Figures obtained by the Birmingham Post under the Freedom of Information Act show that since the changes were introduced the number of penalty charge notices (PCN) issued rose by 74 per cent from the same period the year before.
More than three quarters of this rise was due to tickets issued in the new charging period of 6pm to 7.30pm.
The figures suggest that thousands of motorists simply did not know about the changes.
In the past three months, almost 3,000 PCNs were issued for not displaying a ticket, compared with under 1,000 in the same period the previous year.
The council produced a public report on the changes last year saying: “Demand is increasing for on-street parking in the city centre in the evenings and on Sundays, but there are no charges or restrictions to encourage a turnover of spaces.”
It gave notice of the changes on August 1 and members of the public had three weeks to comment on the proposals.
According to the report, a notice was published in the Birmingham Mail and posted at on-street parking areas affected by the changes.
A spokeswoman for the council said there was a “soft launch” at the end of October, with notices rather than fines issued to motorists.
However, not one person spoken to by the Birmingham Post said they were aware of the proposals.
Gerry Donnelly, a 46-year-old business adviser from Stourbridge, said: “The worst thing about it was there was absolutely no advertising.
“Up to Christmas the traffic wardens were making hay. The only signs were on the machines. There was nothing on the streets.
“People who have been parking for years would still have thought it was free after 6pm. If they want to extend the hours, they can extend the hours. But it was underhand.
“I think most people thought that it was only for the Christmas period.”
Barry Dudley, manager of the Crescent Theatre in Brindleyplace, off Broad Street, said he only found out about the changes when a customer “got stung”.
“I didn’t know there had been a consultation,” he said. “They certainly didn’t write to us here. We weren’t given an opportunity to comment on it at the time, and that always concerns me.
> continues on next page
Chart showing number of parking tickets issued
Chart assembled with help from Helpmeinvestigate
“It’s making changes through the back door. Councils need to be open and transparent.
“We want to be able to inform our customers... we weren’t able to do that in advance because we weren’t consulted.
“Unless people know the time has been changed, they are going to get caught.”
Lucille Beattie, manager of Utopia bar in Church Street, said: “I think they have done a lot of damage. People don’t want to come into town.
“It affects customers. They can’t just pop in for lunch or dinner, they’ve got to watch the clock all the time.
“Before, it was better in the evening – now you can’t stay in here and relax.
“People are saying they’ll go somewhere where you can park for free, like Merry Hill or the Fort.”
A receptionist at the Premier Inn hotel in Waterloo Street said business had also been affected there.
“It has affected us. People prefer to stay in a hotel with a car park. It affects our regular business customers during the week, and families on a Sunday,” she said.
“Before didn’t matter – customers would arrive after work at 6pm and leave again early in the morning. Now they go to a hotel outside the city centre rather than pay.”
The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra said the changes had also had a “significant” impact on the day-to-day running of the CBSO Centre in Berkley Street, off Broad Street.
A spokesman said: “We were pleased to note that as an outer zone business we have not seen increased charges for our audiences.
“However, the extension of operational hours for single yellow lines to 7.30pm has had a significant impact on the day-to-day running of the CBSO Centre, restricting access for concert audiences, artists and over 400 volunteers participating in our choirs each week.
“We understand that the council has very difficult decisions to make in order to increase their revenue but we are concerned about access to cultural venues in the city that is being significantly restricted by parking and operational changes – including our performance home at Symphony Hall, which is in the inner zone.
"We have already seen ticket cancellations because of reduced parking availability in the city centre.
“As late night public transport remains poor, we stand by our call for parking charges to end at 7pm in order to preserve Birmingham as a hub for live music, arts, and business, rather than as just a centre for night-time drinking culture.”
The council also introduced Sunday charges, but the data provided does not show how big an effect this had on the overall rise in PCNs issued.
Number of Tickets issued:
created with help from helpmeinvestigate.posterous.com