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Controversy over Chorlton car park charges

Are car park charges harming the precinct? Helen Clifton on the latest trial to hit the independent traders

Published on August 12th 2009.

Controversy over Chorlton car park charges

The owner of Chorlton Precinct car park has defended his right to rent out the land to a company who charge up to £100 for not having a valid ticket.

“I think the landlord is after as much money as he can get, and he’s let it out to these people and they can charge what they want.”

The charging regime at the previously free car park has been blamed for asignificant drop in trade amongst shopkeepers in the bohemian suburb’s already dilapidated shopping centre.

Owner and Citybranch director Adam Gross insists his decision to work with management company Excel is unconnected to the downturn. Consultation into the regeneration of the precinct has now been delayed until autumn because of the recession.

Chorlton councillor Paul Ankers has gathered a 600-signature petition against the new charges – and says they have caused trade to drop by 30 per cent. Last year, Cllr Ankers succeeded in getting the charges reduced during evenings and weekends.

“In these times of recession, it is very hard for many of the shops,” he said.

“As politicians, you don’t usually get a massive response to petitions. But people have been queuing up to sign it. This has really annoyed a lot of people and it is harming business in Chorlton.

“It’s a disgrace. You wouldn’t be charged the same somewhere else. Disabled people wouldn’t normally have to pay – but they have been forced to pay on here.”

Excel – who say they run a number of private car parks in Manchester, but did not say where – have operated the car park for a year, and their lease runs out on June 29 2010. They approached Mr Gross with the idea, and pay him an undisclosed annual rent.

The £100 fine is reduced to £60 if paid within two weeks. Excel say this is in line with other companies and Manchester City Council, who charge up to £70.

Controversially, Excel keeps track of drivers by filming their registration plates and checking them against DVLA records. Excel are registered under the Data Protection Act, and say they act within the law. They add that their machines are fully compliant with disability laws.

Dan King of Chorlton Civic Society carried out a survey of precinct shops that backs up Cllr Anker’s claims.

“Nobody is very happy with it. A lot of the independent traders in the precinct and along Wilbraham Road have seen a big drop in their footfall – anything from 10 to 30 per cent.

"A lot of people would come to Chorlton to do their shopping because of the free parking. It’s a great shame Citybranch felt they needed to change the management of the car park, because obviously it’s not going to help anybody’s business. It’s horrendous.”

Jack Frost, who owns the popular WH Frost butchers in the precinct, agreed the car park was putting off shoppers.

“It’s never full,” he said. “It has affected people coming into the precinct because trade is down. There could be all sorts of reasons, but I don’t think it’s helped.

“I think the landlord is after as much money as he can get, and he’s let it out to these people and they can charge what they want.”

But Adam Gross said he decided to rent the car park because of “health and safety” reasons and consideration for the traders.

“I was worried at the state of the car park. Under normal circumstances, if I were to maintain the car park, it would come out of service charges. I didn’t want to burden the traders any more.

“Excel now service it and have bought it up to scratch. But by doing that there is a charge. I don’t have any control over the charges. I am not making a penny out of them.”

He insisted he wasn’t aware of a drop in trade, and said he was not planning to invest in the precinct, saying any refurbishment would be “papering over the cracks.”

“We have gone from a free car park to a charging car park. How many people are going to say yes to a charging car park when it was free?

“I want to work with all my traders. Why would I want them to go? It doesn’t benefit me having no tenants in there, so I want them to stay.”

He said there was no specific term for any lease extensions, and that it was up to individual traders. But the multi-storey Graeme House, which is also owned by Citybranch, has been leased to the Department for Work and Pensions for the next eight years.

“Some of my tenants don’t want to extend their leases because of the economic climate. But I want to make sure that traders are part of the regeneration, if they want to be," Mr Gross added.

“The precinct is deteriorating at a great rate of knots and my tenants are struggling because of the economic climate. So I can’t leave it to deteriorate to nothing.

“If everybody wants this to happen, it will happen. It is about making sure we bring it forward sooner rather than later.”

The council said regeneration plans should be ready in time for the economic upturn. They added they would “expect” Citybranch and the yet to be appointed development partner to take the consultation results onboard.

“We believe the independent retail sector is a vital part of Chorlton's sprit and are determined to support and strengthen this as part of our overall vision for Chorlton,” said Angela Harrington, Manchester City Council's South Manchester regeneration manager.

At Confidential we always read all the small print on car park ticket machines

So, Chorlton will be stuck with the charges for at least the next 12 months – but perhaps in the meantime the economy will recover sufficiently to encourage movement on the precinct's regeneration.

Yet without careful consideration, the investors and developers attracted to Chorlton’s independent and vibrant atmosphere could end up compromising the very values they seek to market.

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51 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

The Whalley RangerAugust 12th 2009.

Ever since 'The Second Coming' was filmed in the precinct caff and the place subsequently destroyed by refurbishment, the place has gone right down...

Old ChorltonianAugust 12th 2009.

revporl ..... not only do you fail to understand the meaning of food miles, does it occur to you that probably 50% of the cars in the Unicorn are there because it's free and unrestricted? They're not shopping in there.

Mark DittonAugust 12th 2009.

If anyone has a ticket from these cowboys (Excel) please copy and paste this link - www.dailymail.co.uk/…/n-intimidate-driver.htmlI… certainly wont be paying.

AnonymousAugust 12th 2009.

who is KCI ?

AnonymousAugust 12th 2009.

I thought the whole Chorlton thing was living in a community, walking to the shops, popping for a coffee etc.. Why do you need to drive there? If it's private land then he has every right to charge, like most similar places do. The car park was in a worse state and he was probably worried about someone twisting their ankle in a pothole, impaling themselves on their wholemeal baguette and calling an accident solicitor. People have always parked on side streets and funnily enough the ones parked near schools are usually the mums and dads picking the kids up. And for Christ's sake, it's only a pound for 2 hours, £2.50 for a full day and 50p on a Sunday! Get over it - or walk!

I don't get it...August 12th 2009.

How can they charge you for driving through a car park? There's a myriad of reasons you could give for your in-and-out, not least that by enforcing this rather spurious loophole, they make themselves look like ****s and certainly won't get more business.

AvoAugust 12th 2009.

GMJEN, I was joking about the free pizza. To be honest, I'm not sure if there is a legal basis for their "fine" of £60 for vehicles driving across the car park. Surely the terms and conditions of use which are posted around the car park refer to parking, ie when the vehicle is actually left stationary for a period of time. If you want more information, I would recommend you look on website called http://www.pepipoo.com which has information and a discussion forum about parking charges.

CasAugust 12th 2009.

I thought chorlton schmorlton was funny. Lighten up.

printermanAugust 12th 2009.

maybe the leeches crawled out of the unicorn straw bags and set up a car park?

AnonymousAugust 12th 2009.

2 recent articles sum up the best and the worst about this site. The first about the history of the unnamed square in the city centre uncovered something that could potentially interest a lot of mancunians and I am sure informed a lot of people. The article above shows the worst ( IMO ). Sometimes it seems as if someone farting in chorlton warrants an article , which would include the staple quotes “independent shops/ retailers, nice mums, guardian readers, media types etc“ . I think chorlton is massively over exposed on this site and in the local media generally. A restaurant opens in chorlton and within weeks it is reviewed, whereas information / advice is needed from readers for other areas or manchester. Please don’t get me started on the obvious bias towards all things chorlton.Sorry for ranting, but this annoys me a bit

ConcurAugust 12th 2009.

I agree with Anon. I never ever read anything on here about other areas, come on, lets find some news from other places in Manchester.

revporlAugust 12th 2009.

Chorlton Schmorlton is spot on. I think its hilarious that the Unicorn car park is always rammed. Food miles....hmmmm.

AnonymousAugust 12th 2009.

So he says "any refurbishment would be “papering over the cracks" but then goes on to talk about regenerating the precinct? I put it to you, that the downturn in trade is nothing to do with the car park, but because that Tesco's opened at the petrol station. Just like KCI predectalated

AnonymousAugust 12th 2009.

KCI - Keep Chorlton Interesting

BecksAugust 12th 2009.

Car Park Charges: Just found this link that might be useful for those who've received www.moneysavingexpert.com/…/private-parking-tickets…

TrevorAugust 12th 2009.

Maybe the other places haven't been in touch about their problems to Mancon.....maybe Chorlton is more engaged in that way, gets its issues out. That is a middle class trait after all.

HancockAugust 12th 2009.

Chorlton Scmorlton you love a cliche you don't you? Bet you're a right laugh a minute in the pub. One of those men who repeats jokes and catchphrase but is never witty. I feel sorry for you. Chorlton's individuality is worth preserving - I wish other suburbs were so lucky. The car parking fees threaten this.

MarieAugust 12th 2009.

Hi, I've had a ticket for being in there for over 10 minutes. It was raining, I'd just had my hair done and there was a queue at the machine. I didn't have an umbrella and gave up waiting.. I'd like to hear from anybody with advice about what to do.. I don't want to pay it and am furious but my partner hates hassle etc. It's now gone up to £100! The signs aren't big enough at the entrance to say you cannot drive through the car park without paying. Surely if this is the case, the entrance should be barriered.. I can vouch that I do not now park in the car park and that this has stopped me shopping at the precinct! Boo to EXCEL!

janeAugust 12th 2009.

This car park is a total pain in the arse, why you do suddenly have to pay inflated prices on somwhere that was always free? Equally cars are now parked all along the side streets making it dangerous for kids leaving school. Where is the concern for kids the elderly and mums with babies?

joAugust 12th 2009.

I hadn't been to Chorlton in a while so i still belived it to be free also I was in a rush so i didnt notice the new car park charges... I got a letter 2 weeks later with a fine of £60 for a 10 minute stay. I dont think I'll bother going again

MarkAugust 12th 2009.

The terms and conditions are funny. I'd love to know, can you park for free whilst reading the terms and conditions before deciding to park there or not? Im sure it would take at least 20 minutes to read that lot!

chorlton schmorltonAugust 12th 2009.

Surely any true Chorltonite would eschew driving and walk to the vibrant independent shops in their shoes knitted from alfalfa shoots? And then nip furtively into Tesco Express while pretending to head for the Unicorn.

JohnAugust 12th 2009.

Hilarious to see a councillor raising a petition against car park charges when the greedy, thieving, car hating council, aided and abetted by their partners in crime, NCP, stiffs the motorist at every opportunity. Yet another example of "it's OK if the council do it but a crime against humanity if anyone else does". For a current example of exactly this sort of thinking see the case of Bury Council using tax payers money to fight tooth and nail not to pay their low paid female workers the same as the male ones. Legal bill so far £600,000.

Richard HJAugust 12th 2009.

Pray tell... How come the fines are unenforceable? That sounds like a recipe for fun.

DaveAugust 12th 2009.

Well, there's plenty of free parking in the surrounding streets. Trade is down everywhere for obvious reasons. I think charging disabled people is a disgrace though.

Chorlton BoyoAugust 12th 2009.

To be fair steve, you could just park on Whitelow Road like everyone else. Really not that much of an issue. I live on Whitelow Road and people use it for shopping-parking all the time.

Cheetham HillAugust 12th 2009.

Ugly as the precinct is, it is reasonably well used by a cross section of people.Citybranch and our neo-labour city council seem desperate to squeeze some development gain from Chorlton's popularity. As one of the few district centres in the city which is largley intact why would you want to turn it into Didsbury II? Planning permission for retail all too often turns public and communal facilities ie the district centre, into private cash. Perhaps Bernstein should stop assuming traffic jams means success and start looking at the quality of life for the catchment area.Public space is for everyone,not just as a cash cow for your mates.

Chorlton-bound, maybeAugust 12th 2009.

Must say that chorlton schmorlton was quite witty, while hancock's response is just plain nasty. I am planning to move to Chorlton, cos I like the area, but hate the self-congratulationary nature of some people from there and their inability to take a ribbing with good humour is slightly offputting. I hope to God I don't move next door to Hancock! Richard H-J is quite correct though - the only time that your stereotypical Chorltonite sees the precinct is when they are whizzing past in their 4x4 to the unicorn. And I also agree that there is just a tad too much Chorlton on Mancon. Only a tad though. The buggy thing a few weeks ago was hilarious though!

AvoAugust 12th 2009.

GMJen, I'll defend you guys against any action by Excel parking for free pizzas plus VAT.

Richard H-JAugust 12th 2009.

Excel and Adam Gross's pathetic reasoning for deciding to charge for the car park can't hide the fact that they're just looking to screw more money out of people in trying times.And whilst Chorlton is no doubt tofu-tastic that certainly doesn't apply to the (admittedly rather grotty) precinct. In fact if you wander round it you'll see a cafe (old school, liver and onions etc), a Boots and a lot of cheap shops - it's a hub of the community for people on a budget, senior citizens or picking up prescriptions on many occasions.The pricing of the car park has forced cars out of this space - which has been an asset to Chorlton for a long time - and now they clog up all around the centre outside schools, churches and along residential roads.While I appreciate it's good to get people out of cars (and in my dreams into jetpacks - woo hoo!) most people need them to do the weekly shop. Especially those with kids.The council should really do something about this as it's screwing up Chorlton's retail centre. That or we continue to see a valuable asset of the area make something in the region of about £30 a week in profits tickets for Excel because almost everyone is boycotting them.

cassonAugust 12th 2009.

perhaps we will see a few less 4x4 SUV's on the road, and the carbon footprint dimuinished somwhat when the dot.com millionaire hemp munchers actually have to walk somewhere. Obviously there should be some dispensation for pensioners and the disabled but for the rest...if you can afford all that petrol and psuedo jhealth food, you can afford a few quid to park. in summation : shell on you.

AnonymousAugust 12th 2009.

Sorry, Whalley Ranger but most of 'The Second Coming' was filmed in the Trinity area of Salford. The 'cafe' was a shop in St Stephen's Street.

SteveAugust 12th 2009.

I to have been caught out in this parking fiasco, Firstly I am disabled and the hike to a ticket machine is terrible, I got a £60 fine for a 15 min stay when I delivered items to the Red Cross charity shop. In future I will not be doing anymore deliveries there and any items for them can go to the tip and bu**er helping others. On the question of driving through, clearly this is a private road, however if being charged to drive through via parking fine, the any appeal will show although the park is displaying correct sinage for a car park driveing charges must also show it as a Toll Road which it does not. I am awaiting a further ticket for using the car park to read all the rules, as there was not operative there to further explain these then we will meet in court.

AnonymousAugust 12th 2009.

The fines are unenforcable anyway..

EditorialAugust 12th 2009.

Anonymous thanks for the comment but if you look on the Homepage at the moment we have articles featuring situations or venues in Heaton Park, Castlefield, the Northern Quarter, Fallowfield, Manchester Arndale, Prestwich, Bridge Street and er....Kendal plus every town hall in Greater Manchester. If restaurants in other suburbs had opened as thought-provoking as Ostara and the Coach and Horses then we would cover them too.

AnonymousAugust 12th 2009.

how about a democratic poll to put the question "is chorlton over represented ?" to the masses

CasAugust 12th 2009.

Jo, are you telling a little fib? The signs and machine are quite bright! Are you sure it isn't, you saw them, thought 'ah it'll be ok' and got a shock!

ResidentAugust 12th 2009.

We have to drive through the carpark to get to our parking at the back of our flat. We have received a letter saying we've been seen doing this and will have to pay a fine for using the carpark without a ticket. Cheeky b**tards!

Peter BarlowAugust 12th 2009.

I live in Chorlton - I bet all the shop owners in the precinct would stop moaning if they got a cut of the car park charges, some of them fell out over the butcher's sausage bbq stand. I avoid unicorn these days the big issue seller has a shite singing voice

CasAugust 12th 2009.

It's only a £1, just pay it and you can't get fined.The guy is protecting his own interests, he isn't a public service and it's a bloody cheap car park.

GMJENAugust 12th 2009.

Don't get me started, I have never even used the b**dy car park since it got taken over by them. Have any of you googled excel, the stuff on some of the forums makes really interesting reading. My colleague and I feel like posting notices all over the entrances saying £60 per car per drive through!! Avo you do sound like you know what you are talking about, I could be tempted to pass a pizza you way! Resident, come in and see me, I'd be interested to know where you are up to. I bet there are loads of us.

SmittyAugust 12th 2009.

Anyone who has been fined for going through the car park should definitely not pay. It is unenforceable and would be laughed out of any court in the land. Don't put up with this kind of bullying! What are your local councillors doing about it?

CasAugust 12th 2009.

I thought chorlton schmorlton was funny. Lighten up.

ResidentAugust 12th 2009.

GMJEN - Yes, we have to drive through to get to the parking behind our flat, so that is apparently why we've been fined. It's unbelievable.

Ali McGowanAugust 12th 2009.

chorlton schmorlton: you have made my lunchtime - and, quite hilariously, made me choke on a chickpea I was eating at the time. I am honestly not joking. And if anyone else doesn't like your jokes, they should really just CHILL!!

StevieAugust 12th 2009.

"Thought provoking" food at Ostara? What, you mean like the grilled Trout reviewed here recently? I am sure it's perfectly nice but let's not get carried away...

GMJENAugust 12th 2009.

Anyone had a fine from Excel for just driving through the car park, two of us both Managers from Croma chorlton have both been issued with fines for doing just that. Apparently this is a no through private road and it is for access to the car park only, so think twice before driving through either way to take a short cut from Wilbraham rd to Nicolas rd, as I have done for the past 8 years, as you could end up with them telling you you have parked without paying for a ticket and sending you a fine. We are not paying them a penny! Hate them.....

anon anonJanuary 29th 2010.

chorlton precinct caff on film watch: www.youtube.com/watch…

D KesslerFebruary 1st 2010.

Sorry anon, seems to be the precinct caff after all...

Anthony DonnarummaMay 13th 2010.

do not pay fine,,do not reply,ignore ignore and ignore again,,there is no way that this cowboy form can LEGALLY get you to pay, in other words its a SCAM,,whether you have paid for a ticket or notDO NOT REPLY IGNORE IGNORE,,nothing can be done to you in any way shape or form,,,i would love to see them in court,,i wont cos they know they will lose,,,its a SCAM SCAM SCAM ,,,cannot be clearer than that,,, DO NOT PAY no matter what nonsense they send to you threatening,,solicitors/debt collectors/bailiffs,,, its just a barclays banker sending all these letters out and hoping some of us pay DO NOT,,they have tried this scam in loads of places,,google,,,excel parking scam,,,and you will be converted.

Adrian EdwardsonJune 12th 2010.

couple of things
firstly..i used to go to chorlton on a daily basis, but not since the car park was taken over by excel!! i refuse to pay a quid to shop in chorlton when there is at least 4 retail parks within a few miles that dont charge anything and then of course there is the trafford centre. seems to me that the owner of the site is intent on running it into the ground so that he can demolish and build some lovely flats or something.

secondly.. private road or not for years and years people have used the car park as a cut through unchallenged so it already enjoys a presumption of dedication under the highways act 1980 and doesnt have to have the council dedicate it as such, john leech should know that, so anyone who has had a charge notice for driving through it can safetly ignore it, no court is going to uphold a claim from excel on that one!!! infact anyone who gets a penalty can ignore it full stop, its a civil offence and any claim has to be proportinate to any loss suffered....£60 isnt very proportinate :-)

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