Driver wins in first hearing of parking body: Modest beginning for ticket appeals service. Will Bennett reports

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A SMALL but significant victory in the eternal parking war in London was won by William Bridgeman yesterday. But the market trader from Streatham was not there to see his triumph.

Mr Bridgeman won his appeal against a pounds 40 parking ticket at the first hearing of the Parking Appeals Service set up to hear complaints from motorists under the capital's new enforcement system.

He complained about a ticket he received at a market near Clapham Junction, south London. Caroline Sheppard, chief adjudicator of the new tribunal, allowed the appeal because he was loading and unloading his vehicle.

In Miss Sheppard's opinion, the parking attendant had not dealt with this question in his notes and she found in Mr Bridgeman's favour.

There were no appellants at yesterday's hearing as neither Mr Bridgeman, whose absence was unexplained, or Amanda Mist, an air stewardess from Crawley, West Sussex, turned up. Miss Mist was abroad and her case was adjourned.

Nick Lester, director of the Parking Committee for London, which oversees enforcement by the capital's councils and the appeals system, admitted he was disappointed that that no one had attended.

But he was confident that when the system is operating all over London and the committee moves to headquarters near Trafalgar Square it will deal with about 100,000 appeals a year, representing 2 per cent of tickets issued in the capital.

Eventually all the capital's councils will take over parking enforcement, leaving only red routes as the responsibility of the police.

Drivers will pay the council which gave them the ticket or appeal. If this is turned down, they can take their case to the Parking Appeals Service.

The hearings will be conducted by adjudicators, all experienced lawyers. Until now, parking tickets could only be challenged in a magistrates' court, where motorists risked having to pay costs and heavier fines.

Mr Lester said: 'We are determined to make our appeal service as accessible and friendly as possible. All the panoply and formality which surrounds magistrates' courts is perfectly right and proper when you are dealing with mugging and theft but not for parking tickets.'