A NORTH-EAST woman who was buying essential items for her 80-year-old mother was left in 'tears' after lengthy store queues left her with an £85 parking charge.

Stefanie Fingleton said she was left 'devastated' after she received a parking charge following a trip to Wilko in Chester-le-Street last Thursday (April 30).

Ms Fingleton of Sacriston, had parked in the car park, which is controlled by Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) while she carried out the essential shop totalling £40.

Managed by Horizon Parking, on behalf of Wilko, customers at the site are given up to 30 minutes of free parking before a chargeable tariff applies.

But hitting out at both Wilko and Horizon Parking after being fined for overstaying by 12 minutes, Ms Fingleton said it was 'impossible' to gauge how long a visit would take due to tighter store measures.

She told The Northern Echo: “There was a queue outside and a queue to get to the till.

"There was one person on the till because of social distancing and people were waiting for their turn.

"You can’t just abandon the shopping to check on your car, all the entrances are restricted."

The Northern Echo: The charges at Wilko in Chester-le-Street Picture: NADIA HORGAN/THE NORTHERN ECHOThe charges at Wilko in Chester-le-Street Picture: NADIA HORGAN/THE NORTHERN ECHO

Ms Fingleton, who said the Chester-le-Street store is the most accessible as her mother lives in Newton Hall near Durham, accused both firms of 'profiteering' from scores of other customers.

She said: "The next thing I know, on Tuesday, I got this letter to say that the duration was 42 minutes, which was over the 30 minutes free stay. I was devastated and in tears.

"They're profiteering, where else can you go, there’s a limited number of places you can shop."

Ms Fingleton said she had lodged her appeal to Horizon Parking but warned customers to be wary of the site.

She said: "The way things are, you’re already worried about going into to the shop in the first place, to get your shopping and being aware of what people are doing around you. 

"It is obscene in the current climate and the parking company is obviously attempting to cash in on these dangerous circumstances.

"I am sure there will be many people affected by this as it is impossible to get into the store, get what you need and be out of the car park in 30 minutes.

"They must be making a fortune."

In response, a spokesperson for Wilko said: “We want to make it as easy as possible for all hard working families in the UK to be able to shop with us conveniently and as safely as possible.

"We’re sorry to hear about this fine and would encourage the customer to get in touch with our customer care team as we’re aware of some incidents where parking tickets have been refunded due to the current circumstances.

"So we would appreciate her getting in touch and we can help resolve this.”

  • The Northern Echo also contacted Horizon Parking but did not receive a response at time of print.