By Ella Hopkins
Drivers are fuming after getting hefty fines for parking at a drop-off spot they used by a train station.
Residents have had to shell out hundreds of pounds for parking tickets after town hall leaders introduced new cameras overlooking the bus stop.
Greenwich council is under fire for introducing parking fines at a bus stop in Millennium Way by North Greenwich station in September – and drivers say there was little warning.
Motorists claim town hall leaders have turned a blind eye to drop-offs and pick-ups for over a decade. Residents hit hard by the pandemic are struggling to pay up but fear fines doubling if they fail to pay on time.
Ionut Potolinca, 25, of Charles Grinling Walk in Woolwich, racked up £780 in fines in one week.
The construction worker, who was working on site in Tunnel Avenue, was picking up and dropping off fellow builders at the bus stop in the first week of December.
He said: “I would leave them at the station and stop for only four seconds, no more.
“I only stopped there because I saw someone else doing it. There aren’t any signs – I was looking for them. I used to pick-up and drop-off my missus from there four months ago and I didn’t get any fines or warnings then.
“I have worked eight days in last two months and I can’t pay these fines in 21 days.
“If I don’t pay soon, it will be double. I’m not sure what to do. I can’t pay now.”
Single dad Andrew Clee, 42, was slapped with £260 in fines in November after being put on furlough from his recruitment job this year.
The resident of nearby St Germans Place in Blackheath, who has struggled to cover his rent during the pandemic, paid the first two fines but is appealing the last two – and expects more in the post. He said: “All I was doing was dropping off my partner, who is a teacher, at the station.
“As soon as I received the first fine, I stopped parking there.
“I would have understood if they gave me a notice, but they gave me four fines in two weeks.
“I can’t afford to pay another £130. I have nothing left in terms of savings because of Covid. I can’t afford these fines.
“It all adds when you are trying to support a family, especially before Christmas.”
Charlotte, 27, who lives by Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Greenwich, got hit with four parking fines for picking up her five-year old son’s dad from the spot. She was put on furlough from her supermarket job in spring.
She said: “I paid the first fine but I’m struggling to pay the last three. I’m trying to get Greenwich council to do a payment plan but I can’t get hold of them.
“It is so frustrating because buses don’t even go there. I wasn’t sitting there for five minutes. “Loads of cab drivers use it. Everywhere else is bus lanes. “I will always look for signs to figure out where I can park.”
DISABLED DRIVER IS ONE OF THE VICTIMS
A disabled driver has two fines despite using a bus stop as a drop-off at a station for more than a decade.
Patricia, 60, who lives off Shooters Hill road in Blackheath, has a Blue Badge for disability parking but felt she could not park on yellow lines because of signs saying ‘no stopping at any time’.
Instead, she parked at the bus stop – because the two station car parks are currently being used as Covid-19 testing centres.
She said: “I tried to find somewhere else to park but they haven’t given us any alternatives.
“I had to pick my daughter up when she was sent home from university early and she arrived really late in the evening and instead of being able to pick her up safely, we were driving around and around looking for somewhere to stop and it wasn’t just us – it was chaos. Everyone else was doing the same.
“It all seemed dangerous. Cars were stopping in the middle of the road and friends and loved ones were rushing into the road with luggage and shoving them into boots and dashing off, just to try and avoid a ticket.
I saw someone nearly being hit by another car. “I’ve been parking here for 12 years. I’ve never once seen a bus there.
“I don’t see why they have changed the rules. It’s never been a problem and all of a sudden it’s a problem?
“There was nothing that I noticed that told me things were different.
“The thing that has made me so angry is that they haven’t given us notice. It’s almost like entrapment.”
Hill View Drive resident Olajide Bello, 45, who is a prison officer at nearby HMP Belmarsh, paid two fines in December.
He said: “I dropped off my partner there twice in a week. I was surprised when tickets started coming in because I’ve used the place many times this year to drop my partner off and there is no warning or information about where to drop people going to use the train station.
“There’s nothing that tells us that you shouldn’t park there, “I’ve done it so many times. Why are they fining us now?
“They have to provide a place to pick people up or drop them off. If the government provided a place for people to park, I would go there. If you don’t provide it, why would you fine people for using that place?
“This is not the right time. People are struggling to make ends meets. People have lost their jobs.
“I really don’t think it is fair at this present pandemic situation when people are struggling to make ends meet and considering Christmas is around the corner.”
Resident of Donaldson Road in Blackheath Mick Moore, 64, received one parking fine for dropping his daughter off at the spot.
He said: “The bus stand in Millennium Way is used by TfL buses only when the bus station at North Greenwich is closed.
Consequently, buses are almost never seen there and the bay has been used by hundreds of motorists as a drop-off point for North Greenwich Station for more than a decade without disruption to services and with the tacit consent of Greenwich Council, as no enforcement action has ever been taken.
“Representations to the council are being rejected stating that the bus stop is in use 24/7 which clearly it isn’t and taking no account of the way in which enforcement has been introduced.
“The general impression is that this action is less about keeping an unused bus stop clear and more about generating a cash windfall.
This will eventually become general knowledge among local drivers but meanwhile a lot of people are being left hugely out of pocket at a time when many are already facing very real hardship.”
Kerrie, 44, from Blackheath, was hit with a fine for picking up her partner from the station. She said: “I didn’t see any signs and it was dark. I saw other people park there. I thought it was fine.
“There is nowhere else to park.
“Especially with the Covid situation, I don’t want to use public transport instead of driving with others in my household bubble. We shouldn’t be penalised for not using public transport.”
Bus driver Afzal Mover, 63, who lives on Brewery Road in Woolwich, paid £260 worth of fines in one week after using the spot to drop his daughter off to the station. He said: “I’ve been parking there for years.
“That’s the only place where you can park for the entrance to the O2 and the train station. Other places have double yellow lines.
“Other places are a distance to walk.
“If I had stopped for five minutes, I would understand, but when you’re just dropping someone off, it doesn’t seem right.”
Fiona Asplin’s husband Mark received a warning notice after already being issued with a parking fine in the first week of November. The couple, from Charlton have since received another fine.
Fiona, 55, said: “We’ve been using the spot for drop-offs for years. To start receiving notices without any big signs at the stop is random.
“The bus stop actually says that ‘TfL buses only stop here when bus station is closed’.
“I asked a TfL member of staff in the station information box where I can park and he said Millennium Way.”
Resident of Kidbrooke Park, Mattia Fornale, 39, an IT consultant, was hit with £130 in fines.
The Blackheath resident said: “I wasn’t aware that you weren’t allowed to park there. I have been living in the area for four years now and I haven’t seen a bus there.
“All around Millennium Way is a double yellow. I was trying to find the car park where you can park for 15 minutes – it is now being used for Covid-19 testing. To avoid a fine, I paid for the entire day. For stopping for five minutes, it’s a lot.
“There’s another car park but it’s 300 yards away.
“It’s strange that for a station, there is no particular area for drop-off.
“Now the only option is a bus or uber. But I am trying to avoid public transport as much as possible.
“Where are we allowed to stop? No one has a clear answer.
“Greenwich need to clarify where is allowed so everybody is aware of what they can and can’t do.”
A Greenwich council spokesperson said: “The bus stop at Millennium Way has never been suspended and its status has not changed. It is clearly marked as a bus stop and it is clear in the Highway Code that you should not stop or park in a bus stop.
“The bus stop here provides essential extra capacity for North Greenwich bus station, especially in the event of planned and emergency works. The availability of this facility for buses, particularly in the event of an evacuation of the tube or bus station, cannot be based around the hope that vehicles are not obstructing it.
” The council has deployed CCTV enforcement at a number of locations around the borough which were introduced in several batches with warning notices issued when each location went live. The first batch of cameras went live with warning notices on 24 August and then Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) on 14 September.
The second batch, which Millennium Way was part of, went live with warning notices on 21 September and with PCNs on 12 October.
“Prior to enforcement starting press releases appeared in several local publications as well as on social media, the council’s website, the council’s Greenwich Info publication delivered throughout the borough and in an email bulletin to 10,000 residents subscribed for council updates.
“There have been instances of warning notices taking longer to be processed and delivered than we would wish but we endeavour to process them as quickly as possible.
The warning notice period is only conducted at the commencement of enforcement and is not repeated after this and in the future, should people repeatedly stop illegally in the bus stop, it may be the case that they receive multiple PCNs.
Although some motorists have enjoyed stopping here in the past without receiving a PCN this may no longer be the case.
“The council has had numerous requests to patrol here in the past and have committed resources to patrol on foot.
“Most roads in this vicinity have ‘no stopping at any time’ restrictions to prevent motorists stopping or parking on street to encourage greater use of more sustainable modes of transport and there are numerous frequent bus routes serving the North Greenwich bus station.
“There are short-term drop off facilities at both the North Greenwich station car park off Edmund Halley Way, and at Car Park 1 off Millennium Way.”
In 2007, the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, responded to a question about the bus station. He said: “Direct road access to North Greenwich station has always been limited to taxis and buses only.
Private vehicles are discouraged from stopping near the station entrance because of security reasons.”
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