I have been sent a £60 parking penalty for spending more than 15 minutes in a Shell petrol station while I breastfed my 12-week-old baby.
At the beginning of June I was stuck in heavy traffic on the way to Kent. I came off the motorway and found a random petrol station which turned out to be the Shell garage in South Weald, near Brentwood.
After using the facilities and buying some food for my daughter, I needed to feed my son. Babies need to be fed regularly, and guidance suggests that they should not stay in their car seats for more than two hours at a time. So I took him out and fed him in the driver’s seat.
Unfortunately, it seems that all of this took 29 minutes. The fine notice I have been sent states we stayed longer than the maximum permitted 15 minutes.
In turning down my appeal, the parking company said signs clearly state the maximum stay limit, but I certainly didn’t see them. This fine seems both grossly unfair, and potentially prejudicial against breastfeeding mothers.
VH, Milton Keynes
It’s hard not to despair. Now anyone heading to a petrol station to spend the £50-plus it costs to fill up their car needs to check for any “parking” restrictions.
Guardian Money reported in 2019 on how both BP and Shell were quietly signing up parking firms to install CCTV cameras at the entrances and exits to petrol stations, which are then used to enforce a maximum stay limit. At the time, we found that it could be as little as 20 minutes at some Shell stations – although your letter suggests it is now just 15.
The problem is that few drivers are aware of these maximum stays, which only apply at some sites. They particularly catch out those who, after filling up, go on to use other services such as the cafes, shops and carwashes.
I think your point about these controls being potentially discriminatory against parents is very valid.
What parent hasn’t had a nappy nightmare at some stage and found themselves in a garage bathroom or similar trying to clear it up? What makes your letter worse is that you appealed and it was turned down.
I took the matter up with Shell and it has agreed to withdraw the £60 demand, which was due to rise to £100. Shell says there are very clear parking signs at the site throughout the forecourt and by the entrance to the shop advising customers of the 15 minutes’ maximum stay.
“If the customer had advised the site staff of her situation then they would have been able to register her licence plate and avoid a fine,” it added.
“The reason we have parking limits is because we have had regular issues with fuel deliveries being turned away due to vehicles parking on-site for long periods.”
I can’t imagine drivers elsewhere would put up with such nonsense, so why do we in this country?
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