Family faces £400 fine for taking too long over pub lunch

Tina Hoskins

Tina Hoskins, a teacher from Patchway in Bristol, has revealed how members of her family faced astonishing fines of £400, after a pub lunch ran on for longer than they expected. Some 23 members of the family sat down to eat at the Concorde Pub in Filton just before Christmas, and now four of them have received combined fines of £400 for overstaying their welcome.

The problem, says the Daily Mirror, was due to the fact that the car park has a time limit of three hours for pub customers. Delays in getting the meal meant many of them stayed longer, and they received parking fines of up to £100 if they were not paid within 14 days.

34-year-old Hoskins told the paper that the table had been booked at the branch of the Brewers Fayre for 12.15. They had pre-ordered their food because of the size of the party, but none of it arrived until 1pm. By then her youngest son had fallen asleep. When he woke up, they bought some food for him, and by the time he had eaten it, several members of he family had stayed longer than 3 hours.

According to the Daily Mail, she contacted the pub and argued that if the food had been ready on time, he would have eaten before sleeping, and none of the family would have overstayed their welcome. Staff said here was a machine by the bar where all drivers should have input their car registration details in order to be entitled to an extra two hours, but Hoskins argued that none of the party had seen the machine.

After the newspaper contacted the chain, they dropped the charges as a goodwill gesture.

Parking limits

Parking time limits in customer car parks are increasingly common, especially in areas where there is pressure on parking spaces. Where once it was understood that customers could stay as long as they needed, now the running of the car park is increasingly handed over to a third party, which then imposes a limit. If you overstay your welcome, you are hit with a fine.

In some cases the limit itself is a challenge. Last July we reported on the Lidl in Ashford, Kent, with a 60 minute time limit. However, for those who pop into the store and find the item they need isn't stocked, this shrinks to just 10 minutes. At the time locals were outraged, pointing out that this was barely long enough to park, get a trolley, roam the aisles, and then dash back to the car before facing a fine.

In September last year we reported on the 71-year-old from Caerphilly who was fined £200 after falling asleep in his car - which was parked in a McDonald's car park. He had been up early, and ate breakfast in his car. However, before he was able to drive away, he dozed off. He awoke after two hours, and was automatically sent the fine. The third party which operates the car park refused to back down until it was contacted by the papers.

Your rights

If you fall foul of the rules of a car park, you will generally have to pay if the regulations are clearly signed. If you had a good reason for overstaying, you should write to the company operating the car park and the company to which it is attached, and explain the reason you would like the fine withdrawn. If they do not respond, and they are a member of the British Parking Association, you can make a complaint that they are breaching the code of practice.

If all of this fails, you need to weigh up the costs involved and decide the best approach for your circumstances. The parking company can take you to the small claims court for the money, and if the court finds against you, you'll have to pay the fine and the court costs, so if you aren't 100% confident of a win, it may be worth paying up. There's a chance they won't bother pursuing the case, but it's not worth counting on that.

If, however, you have an iron-clad argument, and the company has simply ignored your letters, then you have every right to your day in court. You may be able to, for example, prove you did not breach the rules, that the penalty is disproportionately high related to the damage caused by you overstaying, or that the penalty is unfair given that you were only shopping at the relevant store and you had good reasons for taking longer.

But what do you think? Have you ever been fined for overstaying? And did you pay? Let us know in the comments.

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