This article first appeared in the July 2020 issue of Parking News: http://portfolio.cpl.co.uk/Parking-News/398/28. It has been reproduced here with the permission of Parking News and the British Parking Association (BPA).
Coronavirus and the resulting lockdown have posed unprecedented challenges for organisations of all sizes in every sector and industry – and POPLA is no exception.
Back on 6 April we took the decision to put all new appeals on hold, with no action being taken until further notice.
This was in recognition of the logistical challenges facing both parking operators and motorists.
After all, many motorists who use our service are keen to revisit the site of the car park where they were issued with the parking charge notice (PCN) in order to gather evidence or comment on operator evidence.
A question of fairness
The decision to adjourn new appeals also had fairness at its heart. It is vitally important to us that both motorists and operators have a full opportunity to submit their respective cases for our consideration.
As we emerge gradually from lockdown over the coming weeks and months, we will end the automatic adjournment process when it’s safe and practical to do so.
With POPLA now operational in all four parts of the United Kingdom, having launched in Scotland and Northern Ireland in May 2019, we will follow the guidelines and advice from the various devolved governments as well as Westminster and Whitehall.
When we start considering appeals again, we will write to affected motorists who logged their appeal after 6 April and give them additional time to submit their full appeal.
Our trained, dedicated POPLA assessors are keen to start considering appeals again. It’s a question of timing and acting responsibly. Operators will be kept informed throughout and we will of course be working hand in glove with the British Parking Association (BPA).
By chance, lockdown coincided with some planned improvements to the way POPLA interacts with both operators and motorists.
First, we’ve introduced a timesaving change for parking operators as part of a revamp of our system. The new API, developed by our tech team, allows for the automated transfer of case data between POPLA and parking operators.
This will significantly reduce the amount of time operators spend uploading evidence packs to our portal.
As part of the API testing process, we worked with ParkingEye, ZatPark and Premier Park – taking on board their comments and feedback. We’re distributing an instruction manual to all operators to allow them to engage with the API. This will be available once the COVID-19 appeal adjournment period is concluded.
Second, we’ve redesigned and relaunched the POPLA website, www.popla.co.uk.
Given the online nature of our appeals process, it’s obviously crucial that motorists can navigate the site easily, understand what they need to do and submit informed, appropriate appeals – ultimately benefiting operators too.
To tie in with the relaunch of our site, we’ve also launched a POPLA LinkedIn page.
This is POPLA’s first foray into the world of social media and we decided to use LinkedIn because we want to focus on building engagement with operators.
We will be using the page to share POPLA news and snippets, blog posts and parking industry news more generally, so please give us a follow here.
A nod to the future
All the changes I’ve described above are rooted in one over-arching aim – to improve the service POPLA offers to motorists, parking operators and the wider sector.
The lockdown-induced adjournment period has led me personally to reflect on the gap that has been left, and the importance of the role POPLA plays in building public trust and confidence in the parking industry.
As we look to the future and the new normal, I am excited to get back to POPLA’s day-to-day work of making decisions on appeals. I’m also looking forward to forging stronger relationships, helping to raise standards and building a better industry.
By John Gallagher, lead adjudicator, POPLA