Morecambe Winter Gardens Big Brother car parking outrage

The unhappy Winter Gardens Theatre Volunteers, from left, Madeline Ashby, June Stancliffe, Evelyn Archer, Susan Lomax and Muriel Brookes
The unhappy Winter Gardens Theatre Volunteers, from left, Madeline Ashby, June Stancliffe, Evelyn Archer, Susan Lomax and Muriel Brookes
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A row has broken out over the Winter Gardens car park after a new hidden camera triggered fines for theatre workers.

Those who have fallen foul of the ParkingEye system include a representative of a local dance school, a tradesman who helps with restoration work at the theatre and a volunteer who was left “in tears” after receiving a £100 parking fine.

Now a leading theatre campaigner fears the fines might deter volunteers from helping out at the Winter Gardens in future.

Evelyn Archer, chairman of the Winter Gardens Preservation Trust, said: “It’s not fair, it’s going to put people off.”

But the car park’s owners say they have “bent over backwards” to help and didn’t want parking to become a “free for all”.

The new ParkingEye system photographs and logs the registration plate of every car entering and leaving the car park through the main gate.

Some Winter Gardens staff and others who visit on official business are allowed to park without tickets in a small number of spaces behind the theatre.

Many drive in through a side gate near the Bath Hotel pub but around 25 motorists using the main gate have been caught on camera and fined.

“People keep running in with tickets since the new system came in,” said Mrs Archer.

“We’re a theatre, we have to have access.

“The theatre is becoming busier since we opened the bar and more people are using it. I can’t tell them all not to use the main gate.

“It’s impossible to limit the number of people, it’s not practical.”

Mrs Archer said she would be taking legal advice as she believes a covenant entitles the Winter Gardens to use a small strip of land at the back of the theatre for parking.

But a spokesman for JET Ltd, owners of the car park, said: “They only own about 10 feet and have about eight spaces. We’ve bent over backwards to help.

“We told Mrs Archer to come to us with a list of people. We’ve told her if she has delivery drivers coming, give us the registration. If she’s got special events on, give us the registrations of the organisers.

“But she wants all her volunteers and lots of other people and I’m trying to run a business.

“Now there’s about 20 people on that list, about double the allocation.

“We pay £50,000 business rates on that car park. What are we supposed to do, leave it as a free for all? Do the council let people park for free? People have been getting away with it. It’s only 90p for an hour and £3 for a day.”

The fines issued by ParkingEye Ltd of Chorley are for £60 but rise to £100 if not paid in time. The Visitor understands a number of the fines have been waived.