A DARLINGTON woman has warned others of an "honest mistake" which left her with a £100 parking charge while taking a Covid test.

Christine Tuncelli is warning others to avoid the 'Feethams Leisure' car park under the DL1 complex after being hit with the charge in January. 

Ms Tuncelli, who had booked a symptom-free Covid test at the Dolphin Centre, parked in the car park after believing it was included in the two-hour free parking scheme. 

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But the car park, which shares a similar name to the council-controlled Feethams Multi-Storey Car Park, is managed by a private firm with 24 hour charges in operation.

The Northern Echo: Feethams Leisure car park under the DL1 complex Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTFeethams Leisure car park under the DL1 complex Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Ms Tuncelli said it was not until she received the £100 charge in the post, discounted to £60 if paid within two weeks, that she had realised any wrongdoing.

She told The Northern Echo: "I am a pensioner and was doing my civic duty getting a Covid test – imagine my horror when a few days later, a whopping great parking fine of £100 landed on my doormat.

"I had understood this car park to be included within the council's two hours free parking scheme."

The charity volunteer, of Harrowgate Hill, urged Darlington Borough Council to advertise its parking arrangements when booking tests through its website to avoid others from being "caught out."

She claimed there did not appear to be any communication on the website advising residents of the parking options at the time of booking her test.

She added: "There was just a text message to say when my test was, they didn't say anything about parking."

Ms Tuncelli said she had launched an appeal with Excel Parking Services Ltd, which manages the Feethams Leisure car park, explaining the mistake but said this was declined.

The Northern Echo: Feethams Leisure car park under the DL1 complex Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTFeethams Leisure car park under the DL1 complex Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

She said: "I'd been through the appeal process and explained that there were two Feethams car parks, pointing out that I had always paid in the past, but nothing.

"I sent them copies of my Covid appointment - I was just disgusted that they were unrepentant in issuing a fine for an honest mistake."

Warning people not to get caught out, she added: "I urge people not to use the car park in future." 

In response a spokesperson for Excel Parking Services Ltd said: "The Feethams Leisure car park is operated as a public car park and is distinct from the Dolphin Centre. 

"There is prominent signage displayed at the entrance and throughout the car park which clearly state that it is a "24 hour pay" car park, and due to the fact that Mrs Tuncelli is a frequent user of the car park, she will be familiar with the terms and conditions and tariff structure.  

"If Mrs Tuncelli was in any doubt about whether she needed to pay on the day in question she could have sought clarity by calling the helpline number displayed on the signage and on the pay terminals.

"We are satisfied that the parking charge notice was issued correctly and whilst we declined her appeal, she was given the option to appeal to the Independent Appeals Service but has chosen to pay the parking charge."

A spokesperson for DL1 said: "The car park in question is leased to Excel Parking, so it is under the jurisdiction of a  private parking company, not DL1 or its owners."

Darlington Borough Council declined to comment.