A car park operator has temporarily dropped penalty charges at the former Beales car park in St Neots which means drivers should not get into trouble if they do not pay to park or overstay their limit.
The move, by ParkingEye, comes after Huntingdonshire District Council scrapped its own parking charges in light of the coronavirus lockdown.
Cllr Derek Giles, who had raised the issue with ParkingEye, welcomed the firm’s decision as a “commonsense approach” - but he still advised drivers to avoid the Beales car park and to use one of the district council’s adjacent car parks instead.
It has emerged that the car park has a new owner following the collapse of the Beales department store chain last month. The, as yet unnamed, landowner took ownership of the site on March 25 following a deal with Beales’ administrators and has retained ParkingEye to run it.
ParkingEye has now decided it will not issue penalties for infringements of rules, even though users are still meant to pay, pending a decision by the new owner on how it intends to deal with parking there in future.
The car park has had a long history of parking problems, with Beales being forced to apologise in 2017 after an incident in which hundreds of motorists were wrongly issued with penalty tickets by a previous operator. The then operator blamed a technical issue.
Cllr Giles said; “I think people are parking there because it is close to the doctors, chemists and shops.
“But with the shops not open they may as well park in the district council car parks which are closer. My advice to people is to not park there and to go to the other side of the road to the district council car park to be sure.”
Cllr Giles praised ParkingEye for the “responsive” way it dealt with his inquiries about the operation of Beales car park, despite them being made during the Easter holiday.
ParkingEye told Cllr Giles they had contacted the new owner of the car park but had not received a response and had decided to suspend the issuing of penalty tickets in the meantime.
A spokesman for the firm told The Hunts Post that the new owners had retained their services in operating the car park and had not changed any of the conditions of use.
“They intend to charge motorists for parking. Moving forward, their stance on this during Covid-19 may differ,” the spokesman said.