A PARKING firm responsible for handing out tickets on a County Durham road has said it will not be issuing refunds to everyone charged before changes were made to signage.

Regent Parking, which enforces restrictions on the road linking the A167 to Thinford Services, said the amendment of signs in February was never an "admission" of guilt.

The comments came after The Northern Echo asked Regent Parking if it would cancel £100 charges issued before remedial action was taken and larger signs installed.

Meanwhile the MP, who represents the area, said a number of constituents had raised concerns as she urged the company to refund those caught before changes were made.

The Northern Echo:

The original signage at Thinford Services Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

The parking firm was first criticised in February following concerns raised over the original signage, prompting it to install several larger signs including one at the entrance.

At the time, The Echo reported that a driver had seen his parking charge cancelled as a “gesture of goodwill” as he claimed signs in their original form were inadequate.

Read more: Parking company changes signs after concerns raised at Thinford near Durham

Meanwhile the parking firm was again criticised last week after a Peterlee woman hit out at signage, and a lack of grace period, after being charged £100 for stopping for less than 60 seconds.

At the time, the parking company refuted any suggestion its updated signs was not clear, as it said it would be refusing submissions made by the driver.

But it has this week emerged that further parking charges were cancelled after drivers successfully appealed their case, raising issues with the previous set-up.

Read more: Peterlee woman hits back at £100 charge at Thinford near Durham

James Thompson of Durham, saw his parking charge cancelled on February 8 following an appeal of a £100 charge issued to him on January 14.

Mr Thompson, who had been caught after stopping for around 70 seconds, initially raised concern over the size, height and placement of the original signs. 

The Northern Echo:

The stretch of road at Thinford picture in February 2021 Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

In his appeal, he said they had been "virtually invisible" due to some being obscured by hoarding and out of the driver's line of sight.

Meanwhile, he said it was "very reasonable" to think signs attached to the nearby fencing related to the building site behind and not the road.

His appeal also went on to suggest that he would have been "barely" able to read the terms and conditions at the site in the time he was issued his charge.

In an email seen by The Echo, the firm responded to his appeal around three weeks later saying that it had temporarily ceased issuing tickets until sign changes had been made.

Meanwhile it said that it was "hoping these amendments" would assist in giving drivers "clarity" as to the restrictions on the land.

The email went on to add that the detailed appeal given by Mr Thompson had been "very helpful” in “identifying a clear issue on the site."

The Northern Echo:

Labour MP Mary Foy who said she believes the firm should refund drivers before any changes were made Picture: CONTRIBUTOR

Last night, Labour MP for Durham City, Mary Foy urged Regent Parking to "do the right thing" and refund all drivers caught before the newer signs were added.

She said: "When this issue was first brought to my attention earlier this year, I was very disappointed to learn that my constituents were being issued with large fines for unknowingly falling foul of private parking regulations due to such poor signage.

"While it is welcome that the parking company responsible are to take steps to improve this signage, I think they should do the right thing and reimburse anyone who was issued a fine before this change.”

'This was never an admission of guilt'

A spokesperson for the parking firm said the amendment of signs was based on some complaints from drivers and never an admission of 'guilt.'

Meanwhile it said it had agreed to cancel the two charges issued before signs were changed for “goodwill,” saying it was not a blanket admission that any charge was issued unlawfully.

It went on to say that prior to issues raised in February, the site had been audited by the IPC (International Parking Community), and that changes were simply made in line with its ethos of striving to improve its services.

It said: "Whilst we accept that Mr Thompson raised an issue with the signage, this does not mean that we accept in any way that the original signage was insufficient and/or that the site was not compliant with our ATA code of Practice."

It added that it is always willing to engage with drivers and review cases on a case-by-case basis, asking drivers to contact them if they have specific concerns.

A spokesperson for the firm previously said that Regent Parking was brought in to assist with issues relating to littering, caused by drivers using the road as an unofficial resting point.

At the time, it said there had been a marked reduction in littering in the area and the roadway is mainly kept clear, while adding it was satisfied that the site is being administered lawfully.