Drivers chased for up to £10,000 in parking penalty row with Knaresborough theatre

The land behind the Frazer Theatre in Knaresborough. Picture: Google Maps
The land behind the Frazer Theatre in Knaresborough. Picture: Google Maps

Drivers are being pursued through the courts for thousands of pounds racked up in parking penalties, following controversy over a piece of private land in Knaresborough.

An action group has been formed by the President of the town's Chamber of Trade after numerous parking penalties have been placed on cars parked behind the Frazer Theatre.

President of the Chamber, Steve Teggin, explained the land was gifted to the theatre by the people of Knaresborough some years ago, but with limited town centre parking, the back of the theatre has been a popular place to park.

But for years now, motorists have received tickets from a company which have been employed by the Knaresborough Players to manage the land on the theatre's behalf.

The controversy has left one such motorist 'living in fear' having been pursued by debt collectors for some £10,000 after unwittingly ignoring numerous tickets.

Knaresborough resident, Michelle Smith, said: "I think it's going back about four years, I have always been under the impression that the guy from the Frazer Theatre doesn't have any right to pay people to come and put these parking penalties on, so I just kept ignoring them and stood my ground.

"I've just been binning them because I didn't think they meant anything.

"I have got county court judgements against me now so that's affecting my credit. We are in the process of trying to remortgage to have an extension built and that's been really difficult.

"I missed my day in court but I'm willing to go back to court, I have told them I am not paying and I will go back to court.

"You just live in fear. You get a knock at the door and I'm scared to answer it."

But Ms Smith isn't the only one, with several other Knaresborough people in legal battles with the company employed by the theatre over debts in the thousands.

Now the action group has called a meeting with the Chairman of Knaresborough Players, David Crosthwaite, to agree a better solution going forward.

Leading the group, Mr Teggin condemned the actions of the theatre and highlighted although the land is owned by the Players, it could be put to much better community use.

Mr Teggin said: "I'm not saying the Frazer Theatre should allow people to park there for free but we have had this discussion with them at Chamber a while ago.

"If you look at the car park and the car spaces that you could provide there, you could get something in the region of 20 cars parked there.

"I would happily pay £300 a year to park my car there as a member and a lot of traders would. If you had 20 people paying £300 a year that's £6,000 a year revenue to benefit the theatre.

"To have a chunk of space in town when we are so short on parking is ridiculous.

"That land was donated to the Frazer Theatre by the people of Knaresborough for the enjoyment of Knaresborough people.

"We have to do something better than what is happening now, this can't continue having people harassed and stressed in the town because they have been caught parking in the car park."

The parking controls were first introduced when the theatre was undergoing work to add an extension the building, but although the extension is now complete the controls have remained.

David Crosthwaite, Chairman of the Knaresborough Players, said: "The Knaresborough Players take no pleasure in people receiving fines for parking next to the Frazer Theatre. The Players, who are all unpaid volunteers, own the theatre and the land around it.

"Parking restrictions had to be introduced during the building of the extension to the theatre. This was because vehicles had been dumped there, and along with other parked cars this obstructed the building work.

"Our contractors complained that their vehicles couldn’t get through. It’s important to emphasise we make no money from parking penalties. We put on more shows than ever at the theatre and need parking for our members and visiting performers.

"The restrictions have been in place for several years and most people respect them. I have offered to meet representatives of the group to discuss the issues involved."

Although warning signs about parking on the private are in place at the theatre, residents have also argued that they are too high for many to notice.

Former Knaresborough Town Councillor and town resident, Andy Wright, said: "The problem with these parking controls is that an organisation that has relied on the people of Knaresborough, via grants, to exist and expand now appears to be trying to entrap the public by not defining where the parking controls start and end and using signs that are so high many cannot read them. It is clear that the current enforcement is unacceptable.

"Having received two tickets myself and not paid, I have both spoken to the chairman of the trust and asked the parking company to take me to court so that the legality of the operation could be established, but nothing has happened.

"Instead they have chosen to impose and enforce huge fines and penalties on those who appear less likely to dispute these charges in court. This has caused tremendous distress to those affected and should be stopped immediately."