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Longfield residents ‘up in arms’ after supermarket’s parking clampdown leaves them facing £70 fines

PUBLISHED: 11:48 13 September 2016 | UPDATED: 14:16 19 September 2016

John Watson at the Waitrose car park

John Watson at the Waitrose car park

Archant

A petition has been launched by a local business to protest against the clampdown

Longfield residents are up in arms after a crackdown on parking has forced them to rush their shopping or face a fine of £70.

The Waitrose store on Station Road has begun enforcing a 90-minute time limit on people using its car park after commuters from the village started leaving their cars there all day.

But the clampdown has had a knock-on effect on residents - many of them elderly - who now struggle to get their shopping done in an hour-and-a-half.

Businesses in the area have also been affected, and a petition has been launched by a hairdressing salon, Hair Underground, to protest against the move.

Although Waitrose claims it is merely enforcing a rule that has always existed, residents say the car park was previously a public one and there was always an understanding that provision would be made for local shoppers.

John Watson, who lives on Dickens Close in Hartley, said around 14 people have received £70 fines so far.

“There has always been a 90-minute waiting time but they never imposed it,” he explained. “They recently sold the rights to another company, and if you are there for more than 90 minutes, you get a £70 fine.

“My wife visits Hair Underground, and she can be there for more than two hours, so she has to come out and move the car. It has got people up in arms.

“The reason they did it was good. Commuters were using the car park and going up to London - but it means local people do not have time to do all they need to do.

“Waitrose owns the car park but there was a caveat put in that they had to allow for more than 90 minutes.

Mr Watson said the supermarket has been ‘totally intransigent’ and refused to extend the maximum parking time

“If it was two to two-and-a-half hours, it would still stop the commuters,” he said. “They should have consulted the shoppers.”

A spokesman for Waitrose commented: “We provide 90 minutes free parking, but we are very close to the station and more than a third of the car park has been subject to increasing abuse on a daily basis from people parking there all day, throughout the week.

“This prevents those who genuinely wish to shop with us or visit other local businesses in the High street from being able to park and it was clear this needed to be addressed.

“We have not changed the time allowed previously and discretion was used while people got used to the new system. We want to provide a facility that enables more people to visit the town and the feedback from our customers has been positive.”

Dartford Council leader Jeremy Kite commented: “I think it is a matter of some regret they have taken this action and made this parking time so short.

“Waitrose are a great retailer, but they have a lot of responsibility to help the other retailers.

“The car park is a very large one and was used de facto as a public car park for a few years.

“Let’s make the time longer, for three or four hours, to allow people to do a short shopping trip in the village.

“They are a big asset to the village, but I do not think it is good for Waitrose to have lots of fines going out.

“I understand they can’t have commuter car parking, but I would be in favour of a three or four-hour restriction.”

What do you think? Email Simon.Allin@Archant.co.uk

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