THE operator of a controversial car park has been ordered to shut it down and refund thousands of pounds in fines slapped on unsuspecting motorists.

Bradford Council took the dramatic step after receiving a host of complaints about the way private car park company Smart Parking was running the site at Oastler Road, Saltaire.

The authority was able to step in after discovering that the patch of land had never legally been turned into a car park and was still part of the public highway.

But in doing so, the Council has also had to hold its hands up to running the car park illegally itself for more than a decade, and now faces a major refund programme of its own.

Shipley MP Philip Davies, who had complained in Parliament of the Smart Parking “rip-off”, said: “I think it is an amazing, remarkable twist in the tale.”

Bradford Council had run the car park under lease from 2004, offering 20 minutes free parking, and earlier this year the lease was taken over by Birmingham-based Smart Parking.

But since then, many angry drivers have been stung with £100 fines, not realising Smart Parking now required them to log their car’s registration for the free 20-minute stay.

Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, portfolio holder for transport, said: “As soon as I heard about this situation I consulted with officers to see what could be done.

“It’s been used as a car park for as long as I can remember without any major issues. After poring over many legal papers, we’ve established that it’s never actually been a legal car park.

“The Council took it on in 2004, but, it appears never promoted the necessary legal order to operate a public car park on the highway, or create an off-street car park.

“As soon as I found this out I asked officers to refund any fines to the people we can locate and also to give a donation to the local community group, Saltaire Festival.

“We have already started contacting our own list of people who paid fines and we expect the new owners to do the same as quickly as possible.”

The Council has written to Smart Parking to ask them to stop operating and refund any fines they have meted out, but say they have had no response.

The authority is now considering legal action.

Cllr Ross-Shaw said if Smart Parking wanted to secure the necessary legal approvals to continue running a private car park on the site, the Council would discuss the matter with them – but suggested it might be better to take a fresh look at the use of the land.

He added: “Given the local upset over this issue and the bureaucratic knots we have undone, I suggest it’s time to wipe the slate clean and start again.

“We hope the company will co-operate rather than force the Council to take legal action to stop them operating.”

Mr Davies said it was excellent news and “would provide some justice for people who have been, in my opinion, unfairly treated by Smart Parking”.

He said: “I’m grateful to Bradford Council for looking into this and also admitting they have failed as well, in all of this.

“I think that takes a fair bit of courage.”

Some of the people slapped with fines welcomed the news yesterday, saying justice was being done.

Eighty-two-year-old Joe Cullen, of Hilton Drive, Shipley, had paid Smart Parking three fines, for a reduced cost of £180.

He said: “It’s terrific news, it’s justice. A lot of people will be helped out by this.

“It was a shocking set-up altogether. It could have caused havoc for us. It caused me a lot of stress.”

Dr Andy Hansen and wife Amanda, of Sherwood Grove, Shipley, had a Smart Parking fine overturned on appeal. He said: “That’s public pressure. I hope they would now refund anybody who has paid.

“I bet there is an awful lot of people out there who will have paid their fine. People don’t want the hassle.

“It will be interesting to see what will happen with the car park now. They will have to stop now.”

Local councillor Hawarun Hussain (Green, Shipley) also welcomed the news, saying Smart Parking’s letters demanding payment had amounted to “bullying people”.

But she urged people to remain very cautious about using the car park until the matter was completely settled, saying they could still be fined and appeals could take months.

She said: “It’s not worth it to think ‘We are in the right’ and go and use it.”

Business owners also backed the Council’s move yesterday.

Julie Harrison, manager of the Serendipity gift shop, in Bingley Road, said: “It’s people power. People will be happy that something will be done.


“All the businesses have been worried about it, people are not coming into Saltaire. People have boycotted the car park, it’s been empty.”

Sergio Krywysz, joint owner of Buonissimo Italian Deli, also in Bingley Road, added: “It’s stopping a lot of people coming to Saltaire, shops are suffering.

“It’s a good thing that the Council are doing something, we have noticed people are more aware of getting back to their cars. It’s rush, rush, rush now.

“Everybody knows someone who’s been fined.”

It will likely be up to the third-party landowner to decide what to do with the land from now on.

But both Mr Davies and Cllr Hussain said they hoped it would remain as a car park in some form, saying it had been a well-used facility.

Smart Parking was approached for comment but no response was received.