CAR PARKING in Darlington town centre has always been a problem and recently on a Wednesday afternoon I encountered what is probably a common problem when parking your car in Darlington.

Commercial Street car park, which is located next to all the odd rough sleeper and some derelict buildings. It is in the centre of Darlington and is half empty most times.

I had an eye appointment at a well known business on the High Row. These usually take about 20 minutes so a £1.00 parking ticket (60 minutes) was purchased and placed on the flat dashboard beneath my front wind screen.

Cut a long story short I ran over time by 16 minutes and as I entered the car park I saw the warden placing the Penalty Charge Notice on my car.

Ah, well I suppose they have a point and although I asked if I could top up my £1 with another hour, I was advised that once the notice had been attached that was curtains, I am afraid.

I opened the notice and saw that the fine was £25 if paid within a week or £50 if later. Well that looked good business on behalf of Darlington Borough Council?

Car parks are for cars to park in so they do not block up streets after all.

I appealed through the correct council route and my request for leniency was turned down and I have paid the fine.

This leads me to the crux of the problem: does the council want people to come into the town? Surely the system of "fines" for parking in a safe place should not be confused with those for parking in a dangerous place on the highway.

If the car park had been chocka-block, perhaps there is a case for fining all over-stayers.

The rejection note mentioned that there is a 10 minute grace period, but the car park was so empty that the guy fixing the note to my windscreen after 16 minutes stood out like a sore thumb.

What is the council trying to do?

Whether the council likes it or not, cars mean people. No wonder the town looks like a desert.

My alternative of using a bus from the Harrowgate Hill area back and forth would need a whole afternoon to fit in. But, to add insult to injury, I could have used my bus pass and it would cost nothing.

Steve Hodgson, Darlington