Bernice Saltzer: Parking enforcers put visitors off

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There’s hardly a day goes by when some terrible crime is committed in the world in which we live and I certainly don’t need to list them.

What I’d never have added to that list however is “parking in a resident’s bay” – yet according to the powers that be at Edinburgh City Council this is in fact one of the most heinous crimes you can commit.

These words of wisdom were imparted to me by the city’s parking services department when I tried to get to the bottom of just why, on a rainy night, my car had been impounded.

I’d be the first to admit that I have been known on occasions to have a flagrant disregard for parking regulations but at least then I’ve known the odds. I know if I overstay my welcome on a parking meter I might get a ticket or if I left my car on yellow lines the same applies.

Parking in Edinburgh during a one-night stay recently, however, I realised the council certainly don’t play fair. Staying in a hotel not far from the Grassmarket where there isn’t any parking, I decided to leave my car in a space in a nearby side street, planning to move to a car park later in the evening.

When my colleague and I returned (ironically I was in the city partly to write a piece for a magazine in the North East about the virtues of a break in Edinburgh!) the car had simply disappeared.

My first thought was it had been stolen but a quick call to the police confirmed that I had in fact been the victim of the parking enforcers. The result was a rush across Edinburgh in the pouring rain (I’d left my coat in the back of the car to add insult to injury) to get to the compound before it shut. We got there with two minutes to spare – and received a £180 bill.

Apparently I had parked in a residents’ bay although there was only some worn-away writing on the road and a sign the size of an atom attached to a near-by post.

Whatever you think of the English, at least we have to put a warning sign up to let people know if they’re in danger of being clamped/towed away.

Parking services tells me this is a truly terrible crime in Edinburgh and that I got my just desserts. When I asked how long after issuing a ticket can you be towed away, nobody seems to know. When I added that there was a van in the street that had a ticket and been left there so why had I been singled out, I simply had the phone slammed down on me.

Edinburgh is a city I’ve always loved but this has left a truly unpleasant taste in my mouth and the feeling that I’ve been well and truly shafted by a system that doesn’t let the players know the rules.

The sad part for me is that I won’t be hurrying back – or if I do return I’ll be on the train.

Bernice Saltzer is managing director of Newcastle-based Sorted PR.