Investigation reveals misuse of visitor parking permit scheme in Hackney
PUBLISHED: 13:42 18 December 2015 | UPDATED: 13:58 18 December 2015
Our investigation has revealed the lengths people living in supposedly car-free developments in Hackney are going to to find a space to park their cars
A black market trade in visitor parking permits in Hackney has been exposed following an investigation by the Gazette.
We can reveal that rules banning residents from deliberately buying parking permits to pass onto others who are not genuine visitors are being flouted.
We found that people living in supposedly car-free developments are using visitor vouchers obtained from people on neighbouring estates to park.
The Gazette carried out its own surveillance on a Hoxton West estate after being contacted by a concerned member of the public and witnessed the rules being broken time and again.
Hackney Council has launched an investigation and warned that anyone caught misusing visitor permits could be fined, have their vehicle confiscated or face prosecution.
“The council takes misuse of visitor parking vouchers very seriously and is aware of the frustration and inconvenience misuse can cause residents and genuine visitors,” a spokesman said.
The investigation focused on a tiny car park on a Hoxton estate not far from Old Street roundabout where cars can often be seen parked in the back-street parking lot with visitor vouchers on the windscreen.
We can reveal that some who use the car park live in nearby Peabody flats at 47 Provost Street, one of 396 car-free developments in the borough.
They say they are given visitor vouchers by friends on the neighbouring Catherwood Court estate as they simply have nowhere to park their cars, which are vital for work or to raise families.
Technically it is a breach of the rules to pass on permits to anyone who is not a genuine visitor.
One Peabody resident, whose vehicle we saw in the car park twice with visitor vouchers on the windscreen, said he believed he was parking legitimately.
“My friend lives on the estate, he gives me the odd permit because I’m having a problem,” he said.
“I wanted to take my children out today and I had nowhere to park. How do they expect us to park in this estate? They don’t give us parking for this building.”
Another, who was seen parking his car once, said the same.
“I had a friend and I visited him and he gave me a visitor permit. I didn’t pay for it. He gave me one and that’s it.”
Neither would comment on who supplied the permits.
Is it against the rules to pass on visitor permits?
The Gazette asked Hackney Council whether handing over a visitor parking permit to a resident on another estate constitutes fraud?
The council said: “If a resident deliberately purchases visitor vouchers with the intention of providing them to someone who is not a genuine visitor, enabling them to misuse the parking concession, this could constitute fraud and it certainly breaches the rules for visitor vouchers.
“This could therefore result in action being taken against both the resident and the person misusing the vouchers to park incorrectly. In extreme cases legal action and prosecution could result.”
The Gazette witnessed vehicles from the Peabody Estate parked five times over three separate days, suggesting rule bending is common place.
Djemal Mustafa, 62, a bus driver, who has lived on the Catherwood estate since 1996, said: “I don’t think they do enough to patrol because there are people just getting away with it. They all seem to park. It annoys me.”
Figures show 6,000 visitor parking vouchers have been bought by Catherwood estate residents since 2012.
We also witnessed other irregularities. One car had an obviously photocopied resident’s permit on its windscreen and another had a permit that was months out of date.
Hackney Council was first alerted to the problems in January 2014 and the fraud team was contacted on six separate occasions in June this year.
A council spokesman said: “Following the allegations raised in 2014 an investigation was launched and audit and anti-fraud teams visited the site eight times.
“It became clear during the investigation that the visitor parking voucher scheme lacked sufficient detail and, though the spirit of the scheme was clear to residents, this left it open to exploitation and made it difficult to enforce.
“A more rigorous policy and procedure process is now in place which better explains the conditions for using visitor vouchers, and requires buyers to sign a form confirming they understand they should not sell or transfer them.
“Depending on the circumstances, someone found to be misusing visitor vouchers could be fined, banned from buying them, have their vehicle removed or even face prosecution.”
The Gazette has handed its findings to the council, which is looking into the evidence.
If you are concerned that a parking permit is being misused, contact the council on 020 8356 8866.
CAR FREE DEVELOPMENTS: ARE THEY VIABLE?
It’s one of those issues that dominates conversations and people’s everyday lives - is it possible to live in London without a car, particularly if you rely on driving for work or to raise a family?
Some believe blanket bans on car ownership in car-free developments are simply not sustainable, while others say council tenants are being unfairly favoured in the parking allocations process - sometimes receiving two permits while others have none.
Taxi driver Guven Ay, 39, who lives in the car-free Peabody Estate flats, said: “I can understand when so many new buildings come and so many flats, if everyone buys cars it causes chaos around.
“But why have they have given council estate people two car permits? I am a taxi man.
“They should issue one permit, maybe at double price or something that’s acceptable, but they should give me a permit.”
Fellow Peabody resident, London Underground contractor Goke Neri, 50, echoed the concerns.
“I’m a father of three,” he said. “There’s no parking at all near my property and I pay road tax and everything. We have to go to Stamford Hill to park as they don’t give us parking for this building.
“My children are grown-up, but others with children who have babies and want to go shopping, they can’t park.”
Hackney Council said it has no plans to change its policy.
Are the rules fair? Send your opinion to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @hackneygazette