‘Smart Parking’ took over the operation of the Cherry Tree Shopping Centre car park in August 2021.
This Thursday (9 June) the Wirral Council Planning Committee will decide whether to grant retrospective permission for Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras, Pay and Display Machines, and signage.
There have been many complaints from shoppers and shop owners claiming that the signage is unclear and that the way the firm operates is having a negative impact on Liscard town centre and is discriminatory against people with disabilities.
The businesses within Liscard’s Town Centre have said they have seen a reduction in customers and a loss of income since Smart Parking’s cameras and signs were set up at the Cherry Tree car park.
Rebecca Lowe owner of Flower Flies Florist is the lead petitioner for the local business petition calling for the applications to be rejected. “Since Smart Parking installed their cameras and signs my business has lost customers and I am struggling to pay my rent.
“My previous customers have told me they can’t cope with the stress of receiving a penalty charge and they are having to shop elsewhere. I am not alone, many businesses here are suffering and we need Wirral Council to help. If Smart Parking’s operations continue it is likely my business will not survive for much longer.”
Liscard Labour councillor and Wirral’s council leader Janette Williamson said, “We have been noting with growing concern the complaints steadily racking up against this company.
“Despite assurances that efforts would be made to ensure there was adequate provision for customers with blue badges, we know that many have been receiving fines and persistent letters despite displaying their badges, and all because they have not followed to the letter the rules this firm has decided to put in place – yet not make anywhere near clear enough to the users of this car park.
“This company needs to act responsibly and fairly, obey the rules, and make sure its actions do not leave it open to accusations that it is using this community, and particularly its disabled residents, as a cash cow. We will be opposing their application in the strongest terms.”
Fellow Liscard Labour councillor Daisy Kenny says: “At a time when Liscard is trying to get back on its feet after a pandemic and funding has been secured to regenerate the area, Smart Parking’s operations is doing the exact opposite. The reputational damage Smart Parking is doing to Liscard can not continue, many local businesses are suffering as a result and some have even closed. We encourage anyone who has been impacted by Smart Parking’s awful operations to attend the meeting.”
A resident who has signed the petition against these applications submitted the following comment; “My disabled mother has been a victim of the inadequate disabled parking system. When she attempted to register, she had to walk upstairs, causing her to have significant breathing problems. She has received several threatening letters and demands from this company causing her additional stress and upset. They are putting people off shopping in an already depleted high street and offer no positive value to the area.”
Ella Hope owned Hotlips Beauty & Cosmetics local business within the Cherry Tree for 24 years. She said, “I had loyal senior customers who had supported my business for many years. Since Smart Parking took over so many of them complained to me about receiving incorrect penalty charge notices.
“They told me they do not want to visit The Cherry Tree Centre anymore as they are too anxious about the stress of receiving another charge. They started going elsewhere for their shopping and as a result I could no longer continue trading. I had to close my shop due to the financial impact to my business”
Robert Beresford, of Beresford’s Quality Meats, has also experienced a dramatic reduction in customers visiting his store. He explained, “Many of our customers are elderly or have blue badges. We have received so many complaints about customers being chased for £100 and £170 charges, even when they have followed the process correctly.
“Customers are too scared to park here now and as a result we are getting less customers visiting especially during the week. We have managed to survive because we supply a lot of local restaurants and schools. If it wasn’t for that side of the business we would also likely have to close. Hargreaves greengrocer next door has lost their business because of this and I know many others have too.”
Ben who owns local business Fixtech said that the way the car park is operated “is putting people off visiting Liscard.” Manager Karl from Scrivens Opticians said that the “business has seen a dramatic loss in customers” because customers “fear visiting the car park will result in fighting another charge.”
Karl said, “Customers can’t use the machines, the process is not clear and even if they follow the process correctly they still get letters demanding they pay a charge. It is not worth the hassle and our business is suffering as a result.”
There is a petition calling for Wirral Council to reject the retrospective planning permission which can be signed by visiting https://www.change.org/p/objection-to-smart-parking-operating-in-cherry-tree-liscard