The warmth of the Olympic flame was extinguished for a Midhurst man, when he received an unwelcome surprise in the post.
Jeff Dobbie, 42, was shocked to return home after six weeks on September 2 to find a letter detailing a £50 parking offence from July 16, at 10.14am in the Grange car park – the exact moment the Olympic torch made its way through the town.
Mr Dobbie had parked on a grassy verge in the car park, so his two children, Annabelle, ten, and Hamish, eight, could catch a glimpse of the eagerly-awaited torch. All other spaces in the car park were taken.
He said “The torch was due to come through at about 10.30am and I parked at about 10.10am. I did it mainly for my children because it was a once-in-a-decade moment.
“I got there and everything was rammed and these were only two or three places. We balloted for tickets to the Games but we didn’t get any so this was the nearest to get to it.”
He added he even still got a ticket from the machine, the only offence was that he was not in a designated parking space.
Further annoyance has been caused by the fact he was given no warning of the fine, as there was no notice fixed to his windscreen when he returned: “I remember explicitly checking the screen when I returned and being relieved that nothing was there.”
He returned to his house on September 2 to a stack of post, and among the many letters was the parking fine from the district council.
He added: “It was outrageous. The ticket was not on the car and now they’ve doubled it. When I looked at the time and the date I got so annoyed.
“If the notice had been on the screen I would have paid it. However I was willing to take a risk for the uniqueness of the event.”
“I thought the council would have used a bit of discretion for that particular hour. That hour was a cause for celebration, and not a short-sighted approach.
He has written to Chichester District Council explaining his position, including the fact he received no prior warning of the fine, and is now waiting for a reply.
In his letter, Mr Dobbie wrote: “It was 20 minutes before the Olympic torch procession passed through Midhurst and I did not want my children to miss this opportunity. I cannot believe that discretion was not used because of the nature of the one-off occasion and the fact the car park soon emptied.
“This completely contravenes the Olympic spirit.”
A Chichester District Council spokesman said: “We cannot comment on individual cases. However, as part of the process of issuing a PCN, photographs are taken of the PCN when it is attached to the vehicle’s windscreen. These are sent to the motorist involved if they request them as part of their challenge to the PCN. The motorist is also able to view all details of the PCN, including the photographic evidence, online at www.chichester.gov.uk. They will require their PCN number and car registration.
“It is never nice to receive a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN), but we only issue them when people have parked illegally.
“If anyone feels they have been unfairly given a Penalty Charge Notice they can challenge it through the appropriate procedure. We want to treat everyone fairly and so look at each appeal individually, and if they have a valid reason we will waive the PCN.
“Our Civil Enforcement Officers are there to keep traffic moving across the district and to make sure people park their vehicle safely. We also have to deal with the issue of people parking in inappropriate places. This is even more important at busy times, such as the Olympic Torch celebrations. This can lead to accidents and cause congestion, delaying not only traffic, but also blocking access for emergency vehicles. Our officers aim to help improve road safety and reduce these problems.”