A STOURBRIDGE car park at the centre of a dispute about an unpaid fine is part owned by the council, the News can reveal.

The pay and display car park in Crown Lane is operated by Birmingham based Premier Parking Logistics which carries out parking enforcement duties including the issuing of fines to motorists caught without a valid ticket.

But part of the land used for the car park is owned by Dudley Council, it has been confirmed.

The council has described the area it owns as just a ‘sliver’ and councillor Karen Shakespeare, the authority's cabinet member for public realm, stressed: "We do not lease any land to Premier Parking Logistics, whose private car park lies adjacent to a free council car park."

A map shows the part of the car park in Crown Lane that is owned by Dudley Council. Image courtesy of Dudley Council

A map shows the part of the car park in Crown Lane that is owned by Dudley Council. Image courtesy of Dudley Council

The area of council-owned land is not currently leased to anyone.

Local authority bosses have not revealed who the neighbouring landowner is but Land Registry documents list a company called Sedley Estates Limited based in Sutton Coldfield as the owner. PPL would not confirm the name of the individual or company it operates on behalf of. It is believed PPL operates on behalf of a leaseholder rather the land owner.

The car park has been at the centre of a legal row between PPL and retired magistrate and town trader Clive Sowerby who runs Sowerby’s Shoes in Lower High Street.

Mr Sowerby uses the carpark almost daily and on one occasion in October 2019 he found himself with a £60 parking fine - issued for failure to pay the correct amount.

Clive Sowerby in front of the Crown Lane car park

Clive Sowerby in front of the Crown Lane car park

The veteran small business owner, whose shop has been in the town for around 50 years, said he hadn’t realised the daily fee had increased from £4 to £4.50 and he assumed a letter to the parking company explaining the accidental oversight would see the parking charge notice overturned.

However, some weeks later he received a letter saying the parking charge had increased to £160. Incensed that a mistake over 50p could result in such a fine, the former Black Country magistrate decided to take a stand and said he’d let the matter be decided by a court.

But after the pandemic hit he heard nothing more and assumed the matter had been forgotten about.

However, in January 2021 he received notification that a CCJ had been issued by the court in his absence - as he had not seen or responded to an earlier court summons which was sent to his business address during the Covid national lockdown that was imposed after Christmas 2020.

He said due to government stay at home advice, he had not been visiting his shop regularly and only picked up the documents after the deadline to respond.

After news of his situation made headlines, however, he wrote to the court to have the judgment set aside and was granted the opportunity to put his case forward. He has since submitted his mitigating circumstances and is awaiting an update from the court.

A spokesman for parking company PPL said the court documents had been sent to an address provided by Mr Sowerby and the company stressed it had only ever issued parking charge notices to motorists parked without a valid ticket on the section of the car park that is in private ownership.

Mr Sowerby said he could not recall where his car was parked on the day he received the fine but PPL has insisted he was parked on the privately owned side.

The car park, opposite the exit route from the Tesco Extra car park, however, gives no indication the council owns any part of the land. There are no signs to show that on one side motorists could park for free without the need to buy a ticket.

Cllr Shakespeare said the council had received confirmation from the enforcement company that no tickets would be issued on the council owned land and she added: "We have also contacted the owner of the remainder of the land a number of times to look at how manage the site in the future so it is clear for people parking there and we are still awaiting a response.”

Stourbridge News: Cllr Karen ShakespeareCllr Karen Shakespeare

She previously told the News the council would put up signage and mark out the council-owned spaces "to clearly differentiate between the private car park and the free council spaces" - although this has not yet happened - and she went on to add: "There is currently no charge for parking on the council owned land, and any charges made for parking on our land, or enforcement action taken out against users of these spaces, is illegal and does not stand."