An art gallery owner has accused Trafford Council of allowing Tesco to ‘stretch’ parking rules outside their shops after he was booked twice for being ‘too slow’ when unloading expensive paintings.
Chris Brooks, 43, uses a loading bay outside his premises to carry inside prestigious works worth up to £45,000 each by artists including Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and Sir Peter Blake to showcase at his shop.
But his careful and gingerly trodden five minute round trips to the basement of his rambling Victorian gallery aroused the attention of parking attendants who began ‘observations’ on his deliveries in the leafy village of Hale, near Altrincham, Cheshire.
The father-of-two has twice returned to his Landrover during drop offs of large canvases often in glass frames, to find parking tickets on his vehicle left moments earlier – leaving him with fines totalling £70.
Meanwhile large delivery trucks, which use the same 20 metre bay to deliver groceries to a Tesco Express Store opposite the gallery, escape punishment as parking bosses say the drivers are more ‘continuous’ with their unloading.
They are also given a total of ten minutes to make deliveries – double the time limit allotted to Mr Brooks.
In a letter, an official from Trafford Council parking services said in the most recent incident last month an attendant had booked Mr Brooks’ Landrover at 2.21pm for ‘parking in a loading place during restricted hours without loading.’
The official added: ”A loading bay is only to be used for the continuous loading or unloading of items for which use of the vehicle is specifically required such as heavy or bulky items that could not otherwise be carried.”
”The vehicle was parked in a loading bay and no evidence of loading was observed by the Civil Enforcement Officer before the Penalty was issued.”
The council said ‘non-commercial vehicles’ were usually given up to five minutes in the bay and also asked the couple to provide ‘independent’ evidence of their unloading including invoices and delivery notes to prove they use the bay correctly.
But today, Mr Brooks, who runs the Atelier Rose and Gray Gallery, said: ”I think the council should just re-label the loading bay ‘For Tesco people only’ and be honest about the situation.
”It seems their parking policy supports loading for Tesco but not for small independent traders like us.
”This loading bay is there for all businesses to use, however Tesco – it’s lorries, managers, drivers and sometimes it’s customers hog it all day long.
”It is rare we can actually make use of this loading bay when we need it, because for approximately 90% of the day, Tesco are using it instead. If we are actually using the bay when a Tesco truck arrives, we are expected to move – immediately.
”Just because a traffic warden did not see us over a five minute period does not mean we were not loading. We have to carry large, heavy pictures up and down stairs, through doorways and into a safe place in the space of five minutes without being caught out.
”I honestly believe the parking officer wouldn’t have any tickets if our vehicle had been marked with a ‘Tesco’ logo. I would also like to know is what continuous loading means.
”I use the loading bay for my business, just as Tesco do – but these big lorries can be there for hours. It seems that there is one rule for us using the bay and a different one for Tesco.”
Mr Brooks, who runs another art gallery in Ramsbottom, near Bury, ran into trouble after he opened his Hale branch to showcase Turner Prize nominees and winners and Royal Academy Artists from Albert Irvine and Stephen Chambers to print maker Gary Hume.
He added: “I have to take the paintings out of my car and carefully transport them to the gallery because they are very expensive and that takes some time.
”Often I will have to close and lock the boot of my car in between drops off as I’m worried someone will steal one of the works whilst we are inside the shop dropping off another painting.
”But we’ve been penalised for that too as it looks like we are not unloading as the doors are not open.
”It takes a military operation to unloading the paintings and it can very stressful and now we have the worry of whether we have a ticket on the car when we come back.
”We couldn’t get a parking space with the property itself and the only place to park would be a pay and display several minute’s walk away.”
Mr Brooks’ partner Alison Kelly, 45 said: ” It seems the rules on unloading can be stretched by Tesco but not by us. Tesco are loading within their rights and we are loading within our rights but they have a corporate identity.
“It seems to be big business against a small gallery like ours and big business wins. It is favouritism by the council.
“It makes me sick to think that someone at the council is getting our hard earned tax to make life difficult for start-up traders like ours.”
A Trafford Council spokesman said: “This loading bay is regularly monitored as part of a daily patrol with a five minute observation time provided for non-commercial vehicles before a parking penalty is issued if no loading or unloading activity is observed.
”Commercial vehicles are observed for 10 minutes.”
Image courtesy of David Dixon, with thanks.