FURIOUS disabled parking badge holders have hit out after they were handed parking fines at a hospital car park.
Parking firm ParkingEye was recruited to bring in the new system, with cameras using number-plate recognition to catch drivers who do not put tickets on their cars or overrun their paid time.
The introduction of the new system coincided with a parking hike from £1.50 to £2 for two hours, and a new charge of £3.50 for two to four hours.
But those with a blue badge are still allowed to park free –as long as they register beforehand.
Blue badge holder David Hedley, of Ryhope, was sent a £60 fine after a visit to Sunderland Royal Hospital.
The 50-year-old, who suffers from kidney failure, was stunned as he says had not been told about having to register.
“I parked in a disabled bay and displayed my badge so I couldn’t believe it,” said the dad-of-five and grandad-of-three.
“Then they told me that I’ve got to register.
“But they have done this without any warning.
“An older person might not realise and pay the fine when they don’t need to.
“Apparently there’s a notice on the ticket machines but if you have a blue badge you don’t have to pay, so how were we supposed to know?”
George Clark, who has a blue badge which he uses when driving around wife Linda, 65, who had a stroke eight years ago, also got a fine.
Mr Clark took his wife for an appointment at the hospital.
“I was amazed when it came through the door,” said the 66-year-old, of Hylton Castle.
“They said that you’ve got to register but the signage is non-existent.
“I’ve seen other people complaining about this, so loads of people are getting caught out.”
Mr Clark and Mr Hedley are both in discussions with bosses at the hospital to have their fines cancelled.
City Hospitals Sunderland admitted that “there have undoubtedly been some teething problems,” but will make changes after hearing complaints.
A spokeswoman said: “It is free to blue badge holders with a valid permit to park on any of our hospital sites.
“However, for someone coming on to the Sunderland Royal Hospital site, they must register their vehicle with our security staff.
“Individuals are able to do this from home before their visit, or at one of the dedicated telephones located at the main entrances.
“Since the scheme we have had more than 3,000 blue badge holders registered on the system.
“Once a blue badge holder has registered their vehicle, they do not need to register on any subsequent visits.
“We are putting additional signage on all disabled bays to alert drivers.
“If any blue badge holder has already received a parking charge notice, they should contact the trust’s security staff and the charge will be rescinded.”
The spokeswoman added: “The trust recognises that there have been some problems with the new system, and that has caused undoubted anxiety for a number of patients and visitors.
“We apologise for any distress caused, but the trust will look at each parking charge notice on an individual basis and rescind the charge should we feel it has been incorrectly issued.
“If you have been issued with a parking charge notice and feel this has been given unfairly, please contact the trust’s security team on 569 9185.”