For many Ribble Valley residents, Blackpool Airport has become the airport of our choice for flights both abroad and to Dublin, Belfast and the Isle of Man.
It is easy to get to, small and friendly with barely any checkout queues and with “free parking” (yes there has been a £10 per head development charge, but this has seemed worthwhile as we have been led to believe that with this money, facilities will be further improved).
So imagine how upset we were to return from a long-overdue family holiday in the Algarve, to find a parking ticket attached to the windscreen of my Fiat 500 stating simply we had parked “in a no parking area”. In the bright early afternoon sun we could see (although still not easily) the grass verge we had parked on, was indeed a “no parking area”, but even in the light of day, the relevant signage was obstructed by the other illicitly parked cars. The signage listed a whole raft of places where you couldn’t park, including the obvious double yellow lines and cross hatched boxes. However this signage wasn’t clearly visible when we arrived in the early hours of the previous Thursday on the poorly-lit piece of wasteland which Blackpool Airport directs you to as their long-stay car park.
On Thursday mornings there are several flights leaving within hours of each other, and the car park was crammed. We circled twice, aware of people parked on the grass verge next to the perimeter fence and of cars abandoned on double yellow lines and in the cross hatched boxes and with the pressure of our flight time looming I reversed neatly into the last space on the the grass verge. In no way were any of the cars there obstructing the main long straight thoroughfare and as my car is small, not even my wing mirrors were in danger. We had had to cross a double yellow line to access this grassed area, but as other “legitimate” spaces could only be accessed by crossing double yellow lines, we decided this was simply a feature of this poorly organised car park.
The ticket we have received is from ParkingEye, Chorley (sound familiar?) and is headed “Parking Charge Notice”. When we contacted Blackpool Airport we were told it was none of their business as they have employed a car park management company to manage their car parks. Well, Blackpool Airport, we think it is your business. Over the years we have contributed hundreds of pounds to your airport development fund and expect the long-stay parking facilities to be something better by now than a poorly-lit piece of wasteland, lacking the capacity needed at peak times, and without marked bays. And, to add insult to injury, the parking ticket was being issued as we landed at Faro airport two hours later, so it sat on my windscreen (and slightly onto the car paintwork) for a full week before I tried (ineffectually) to scrape it off a week later. A charge of £60 had to be paid in full within 14 days before the full £90 charge kicked in – I’m glad I hadn’t gone for a month!
According to BBC Watchdog, these parking tickets issued on private land are charges, not fines, their legality is debatable and we are encouraged to challenge them. I urge readers to think twice before using Blackpool Airport. We have many other options in the region, and there are other ways they could manage their car park, like providing an attendant at peak times (there are only so many flights each day!) to direct you to where you can park, rather than taking your money off you twice for where you can’t!