‘Furious’ parents fined by soft play centre for attending birthday party

Car park at Activus, Worthing. Photo by Derek Martin Photography
Car park at Activus, Worthing. Photo by Derek Martin Photography

Angry parents have criticised a soft play centre after getting a parking fine for attending a child’s birthday party.

On Saturday, February 10, Claire Thomas took her six-year-old son Miles to his friend’s party at Activus in Stoke Abbott Road, Worthing, and parked in its car park below Stoke Abbott Court. Two weeks later, the 39-year-old was among many parents handed a £60 parking fine – despite registering her car details on the charity’s iPad in reception to get free parking.

David and Claire Thomas from Worthing with their two sons

David and Claire Thomas from Worthing with their two sons

He said: “I was furious that for a children’s party where we followed the process which wasn’t even pointed out to us by staff, we were still deemed to be in the wrong.”

The fine from Smart Parking was sent on February 26, and asked for £60, which would go up to £160 if it was not paid in two weeks. The couple, of Loxley Gardens in Bulkington Avenue, Worthing, refused to pay.

David, 39, said Activus staff claimed to be sorting the problem – but on March 31, the couple received a letter from Debt Recovery Plus asking for £160.

After speaking to Aquaterra, the charity which runs Activus, David said he received confirmation on April 10 that the ticket was cancelled – only to get a further email on April 16 that it was still being looked into.

Aquaterra acknowledged their mistake, David said, and the fine was cleared. The couple know parents still trying to get theirs cancelled, including the party’s host.

The IT worker had seen social media posts and heard from parents saying they would not go back to the soft play centre. He said: “They are angering their own customers. They kept reminding me they are a charity, and I don’t want them to go out of business, but there are some people who would have got that letter and paid it when they shouldn’t have done. Sixty pounds is a lot of money to some people.”

An Aquaterra spokesman said they would not comment on specific issues, but that if a ‘genuine mistake’ was made they would ask Smart Parking to review it, and letters from them in that time was ‘beyond their control’.

They added: “It should be noted that we successfully park numerous customers every week without incident but occasionally a mistake can occur, more often than not through customer error.

“We continually review how we manage the current parking process and have recently introduced a payment/refund system for parking fees as part of that review.”