Newcastle food bank fears closure if made to pay £4,000 in parking fines

Loree Moran-Wilson said the charity would be unable to function without parking in the restricted spaces. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

A food bank which helps feed hundreds of Newcastle families fears it will have to close if forced to pay £4,000 of parking fines.

Kenton Foodbank founder Loree Moran-Wilson has been receiving the fines since 2020, sent by two enforcement companies on behalf of the owners of the car park, which is used by volunteers for access.

The car park, which is behind Kenton Shopping Centre, has historically been free to park.

When 60-minute free parking signs were put up, Ms Moran-Wilson said she contacted the car park's owners to request a charitable permit but did not receive a response for 12 months, though she did keep getting fines.

The car park was once free to use but is now signposted with parking warnings. Credit: NCJ Media

The food bank said it managed to secure a parking permit for one of their two vans - originally Ms Moran-Wilson's own Ford Transit - which was arranged through her landlord.

Ms Moran-Wilson claims she was refused a second permit for a larger Mercedes Sprinter van, though the food bank was able to swap the permit over to the newer vehicle in May 2022.

However, Civil Enforcement Ltd, which currently manages the car park, said it never received a request for another van.

The car park is owned by Castlecap Investments though debt collection notices were issued by DCBL until summer 2021, when Civil Enforcement Ltd took over.

The food bank now faces a £4,000 bill after receiving fines for both vehicles, with the latest arriving as recently as October.

She said it is likely the charity will be unable to continue operating if forced to pay them, cutting off a food supply to more than 500 families.

The foodbank, located behind Kenton Medical Centre, supplies weekly food parcels for families, couples and people living on their own. Credit: NCJ Media

Due to not paying, the food bank now has a county court judgment against it, giving authorities the power to block any lease application the charity may make in the future.Ms Moran-Wilson said: "The trouble we've got is that the company who put the signs up are not really associated with the people who are distributing the tickets.

"There's no-one you can actually speak with to get the tickets to stop, so we literally get a ticket every time we drive to the food bank."It's been going on for over two years and when I did get through to the owners, I was asked why I couldn't park somewhere else. It's ridiculous advice, what are we supposed to do, carry loads of food from one part of the car park to the next?"If I couldn't get food into the foodbank, if I had taken these tickets seriously, all the families we provide food parcels to every week wouldn't have any food."It is not just the food bank's own vans that have been given fines.

Volunteers who help to unload or drop off food have also been penalised, some claiming to have received them when only parking for 15 minutes, despite an hour being allowed for free parking.

Self-employed window cleaner Jeremy Burke, who helps out at the food bank, has received a county court judgment for refusing to pay his fine.

Mr Burke is also complaining about the fines. Credit: NCJ Media

He initially thought that the letter was a scam, as there was no picture of his car on it, so he ignored it.Mr Burke said: "It's absolutely crazy, there are people who have given up their time in the community and are getting charged parking fines. I've now got a county court judgement against me and I've had no chance of corresponding with these people or anything."

Those fined have claimed it is difficult to speak to Civil Enforcement Ltd, despite the firm's website offering a phone number to pay your fine and an appeals process.

In a statement provided to ChronicleLive, the company said: "Our appeals process is quick and extremely user friendly and is available 24/7 on the website portal.

"Details of the appeals process are clearly set out on the parking charge and on our website.

"In common with all local authorities and most other private parking operators, appeals cannot be made over the phone.

"This reduces confrontation and ensures that appeals are dealt with quickly and efficiently, and that anyone wishing to appeal can register all their grounds of appeal and upload their supporting evidence to ensure the appeal is dealt with fairly and efficiently."

Ms Moran-Wilson added: "We need these companies to find their social conscience.

"We're in the middle of a cost of living crisis. I started the food bank four years ago because I knew people needed it in Kenton then and we need it even more now.

"We need support not people trying to drag us down.

"I truly believe there's got to be someone within Castlecap or the company issuing the parking tickets who has the authority to just say 'stop doing this do a foodbank, it's awful, what are we doing?'"

Kenton Councillor Stephen Lambert said: "The foodbank is doing important work in the community, vehicles have to drop food items off and pick them up.

"Let's have a bit of compassion, we're in a cost of living crisis - let's have some flexibility here.

"Really, I think they ought to either lower the fine or write them off and come to some meaningful agreement where the foodbank can function effectively and meet the needs of those experiencing hardship both in Kenton and the wider area."

Ms Moran-Wilson is urging those finding her to display a 'social conscience'. Credit: NCJ Media

A spokesman for Civil Enforcement said: "The car park was previously controlled and managed as maximum stay parking before Civil Enforcement was instructed to manage the car park by the owner of the retail park.

"The maximum free parking time is determined by the client to suit the needs of the site.

"In this case, 60 minutes free parking was set by the client to maximise the availability of parking to legitimate customers of the retail outlets situated at the site. Any retail outlets situated at the site can apply, through our client, for exemption permits for staff and other frequent visitors to the site.

"As far as we are aware, no permits have been requested but they are able to do so via the landlord of the site.

"Anyone dropping off parcels at the food bank would not receive a parking charge unless they remain in the car park for longer than the 60 minutes free parking allowance (plus the additional grace period afforded to drivers, as required by the BPA Code of Practice)."Civil Enforcement also claimed that its approach had resulted in increased driver footfall for their client and its tenants, by eradicating abuse of the free car park.

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