Image copyright PA Image caption There is a number of signs at Green P lots around the Southwark area of London which make it appear as if they are providing free parking
London’s congestion charge is “misdirected” with private members’ companies selling parking tickets on it at significant revenue gains, the BBC has found.
A documentary on BBC Two’s Long Lost Yard suggests two little-known private members’ companies are raking in over £3m a year from members of the public.
Some of the signs have even been deemed “misleading”.
Traffic wardens are still enforcing the £11.50 charge, established by the government in 2003, but say that in one case another company is letting people off the charge if they do not want to pay.
The BBC Long Lost Yard team joined traffic wardens in the south London suburb of Southwark, which is home to part of a network of private members’ private lots in the area.
One lot, Green P, has become famous due to three signs made by Metropolis Parking which read “Free Parking on Arrival” and “Open every day until 7pm”.
Image copyright Sean Keating Image caption The signs on Green P number 5c do not make clear the paying rate
More motorists were relying on the fact that parking is free, a customer services worker said, when they needed more information.
The Green P lot in Landbrooker Lane, which had been selling tickets for up to £8, now charges £5 and £10 a day to pay a daily rate.
Another sign has started to appear in the area which has now gone largely unnoticed, c16 Properties says.
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At the lot on C18, number 5c, for a day’s parking costs £4.40.
However, a small sign at the entrance tells people to pay a higher fee for a year’s parking – £35.
Gunson Dalton, who owns the lot, also holds members’ car parking tickets which have been issued to his clients.
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Critics say that the card reader, used for the payments, makes it seem like there is free parking on arrival.
Mr Dalton, a Cardiff resident, denies that they are exploiting people.
He said he had bought the land from the council in 2014 and was owed rent. Since he then found out about the congestion charge, he has made a contract with a company called C16 Properties, owned by his neighbour, Steve Gill.
Both Mr Dalton and Mr Gill said they sold on members’ parking tickets because it was impossible to make a profit through selling the flats.
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Traffic wardens say that many new cases of parking fraud are getting reported to them, mainly when drivers end up having to pay on exit.
Why there are free tickets?
There are two main reasons for making sure there is free parking: drivers want to get out quickly, and those who want to save money do not want to pay.
An existing environmental benefit of the charge is that drivers have to stay in their cars to help move dirty air out of the capital’s streets.
The congestion charge has also been thought to benefit the economy, largely because there is a free car park where drivers can do the same thing: fuel up to go to work.
Image copyright PA Image caption The cars pulling out of the parking lot are also moving diesel out of the air. Image caption Truckers often use private members’ lots in south London
Is it fair?
Traffic wardens say they can’t attend all members’ parking lots, so some motorists do end up having to pay, only after a break of about 20 minutes.
In the car park on C13, for instance, £5 was charged for the pay day ticket. The lot was open, but people could park for free.
They weren’t in position to charge for exit.
But what about for those who don’t pay?
Image copyright PA Image caption Traffic wardens are still enforcing the £11.50 charge, established by the government in 2003, but say that in one case another company is letting people off the charge if they do not want to pay
Fraud is down, they say, but there are many examples of parking fraud.
Last year, council rangers investigated over 3