Outrage at five-month battle over parking ticket

Oak Tree Farm day care center for adults are fighting a parking ticket given to them at Steyning leisure centre. It was issued after staff forgot to put a blue badge on their car after dealing with a seizure and another one of the adults running away. Denise King (from OTFDCC) holding the blue badge and Parking fine. Pic Steve Robards SR1823394 SUS-180409-152214001
Oak Tree Farm day care center for adults are fighting a parking ticket given to them at Steyning leisure centre. It was issued after staff forgot to put a blue badge on their car after dealing with a seizure and another one of the adults running away. Denise King (from OTFDCC) holding the blue badge and Parking fine. Pic Steve Robards SR1823394 SUS-180409-152214001

Charity staff have spoken of their anger as a five-month-long battle continues in a bid to get a parking ticket revoked.

Oaktree Farm Care, which cares for young adults with learning disabilities, was slapped with a fine after visiting Steyning Leisure Centre earlier in the year.

Members of the charity, based in Copsale, had popped down to the centre for their weekly swimming session but as teams arrived there were two separate incidents involving its adults.

In carers’ haste to resolve the issues a blue parking badge was not placed on one of its cars and the charity was given a parking ticket.

Amanda Churcher, who runs the centre, has called on Horsham District Council to ‘have some empathy’ as she continues to fight the charge.

She said: “It’s been a continuous, frustrating battle. There’s no flexibility at all.

“I don’t understand why Horsham District Council can’t understand things happen with disabilities. There are some incidents which are out of carers control.”

The charity takes its young adults swimming at the leisure centre most Tuesday mornings.

On this particular outing on April 3 it took 16 adults to the Horsham Road centre - many of which it says needs one to one care.

Amended said as they parked up one of the adults got out of the car and ‘did a runner’ across the car park. Another then suffered a seizure.

She said: “My staff felt it was safer to go after the person, which I would want them to do, than to put a blue badge on the car.

“We’re not disputing the badge was not put on because it wasn’t. There was so much going on.”

The charity was hit with a £75 fine with added court fees.

Amanda has spent the past few months trying to fight the decision but said she was told there was nothing the council could do.

The charity has since received a letter stating it must pay or some of its possession will be taken away.

Amanda added: “I couldn’t believe it. I have never know anything like this. They said we were parked there for 20 minutes without displaying it.

“Have some empathy and understand that these things don’t always go to plan on the day.”

A spokesman for Horsham District Council said: “An original appeal to a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) was made by Oak Tree Farm Day Care Centre on 25 April 2018, stating that a Blue Badge was actually displayed on their vehicle when it was parked in the Steyning Leisure Centre on 3 April 2018. This appeal fell outside of the 14 day 50% discount period.

“A response from the Council upholding the appeal was sent with photographic evidence that showed no Blue Badge was displayed in the vehicle and that the PCN would therefore need to be paid or the Centre would have to follow the formal appeal procedure which was outlined.

“Further correspondence was issued as per the Traffic Management Act 2004 appeal process from the Council on 8 May, 18 May, 29 June and again on 13 July 2018 asking for payment.

“A letter from Oak Tree Farm Day Care Centre was finally received on 19 July which was now outside the time frame to accept further appeals, claiming that due to an incident in the car park, they may not have displayed a Blue Badge as required.

“The Council then sent a final customer letter on 1 August explaining that after careful consideration of the circumstances there were no grounds for a cancellation of the charge. The Centre was advised that failure to pay may result in the outstanding debt being registered by the Council at a County Court. At no stage has the Council claimed that any possessions could be seized in relation to this incident. Since the issuing of this letter, no further correspondence has been received regarding the case.”

Oaktree Farm Care is funded by West Sussex County Council and cares for around 45 adults at its centre in Copsale Road.

Last year around £1,000 was taken from the charity as thieves broke into its building, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage.