AN estate which introduced cameras at a County Durham beauty spot has extended its grace period after one visitor was fined £100.

Blogger David Simpson says “a bit of innocent chatter, a failed download, three rejected coins and a bag of nuts” resulted in a £103 charge to see High Force waterfall, in Upper Teesdale.

The 51-year-old had decided to visit the tourist attraction on June 22 and arrived at the carpark at about 5pm.

He said he asked some ramblers to check if he could still see the waterfall before paying the £3 parking fee.

Being reassured he could still see the fall, Mr Simpson then attempted to pay with a £10 note but seeing that the machine did not accept notes or cards, he then tried to download a parking app advertised on the machine.

Mr Simpson said the app failed several times and then would not accept his number plate.

In the end, he made his way to the nearby High Force Hotel for some loose change. And after buying a bag of nuts, he finally managed to get his ticket.

He said: “So with my three pounds paid and the said ticket placed on the dashboard, as instructed, it was time to explore. What I didn’t know, however, was that time had already ticked its final tock and taken its £100 toll. What I didn’t know was that despite the payment of £3, the camera had clocked my time of arrival with its number plate recognition technology and decided that I was a dreadful offender.”

“It was only when I’d paid that £3 fee that I was approached by one of the friendly visitors who I’d been talking to a few minutes earlier. Warily, if a little tardy in his thoughts, he asked rhetorically: ‘you have seen the ‘small print’ about the £100 fine after ten minutes?’”

Mr Simpson was fined for staying 26 minutes.

He said: “Now rules are rules, but this seemed like a little case of extortion to me; a ridiculous sum for a silly error, perhaps even a case of bullying you might say.”

Mr Simpson, who was notified he could pay a reduced fine of £60 if he paid within 14 days, has since appealed and offered to pay £7 to the parking company Civil Enforcement Ltd. He has also called for better signage at the carpark entrance.

Raby Estates, who own the land, launched the Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras in May, to replace the manned kiosk system.

A spokeswoman for the estate said the new system would allow visitors to park quicker and reduce congestion.

However, the spokeswoman has since told The Northern Echo the estate has managed to negotiate a longer grace period of 30 minutes.

She said: “In response to visitor feedback since the pay and display system was introduced at High Force we have managed to negotiate an extension to the grace period, so visitors will now have 30 minutes in which to pay for their parking after they arrive.”

The spokeswoman said the estate had no influence over existing fines and advised Mr Simpson to follow the appeals process. The Northern Echo made every effort to contact Civil Enforcement Ltd but no response was received at the time of going to print.