Family’s parking ordeal

A family of seven living in council accommodation in Stafford Road in Caterham say Tandridge District Council (TDC) has failed to provide them with suitable parking, despite needing it for their disabled children.

In spring 2022, Emma Woodland and Clive Brewer were given notice on the South Godstone home they had rented for 18 years, and Clive was also made redundant. TDC found the couple and their five children temporary accommodation in a two-bedroom flat in Warlingham.

In November, TDC moved them into a larger flat above East Surrey Museum. Although the inside was far from ideal, with a lack of insulation, mouldy walls and dirty carpets, the family was grateful to have more space.

Emma says they were given TDC’s permission to put their vehicle in one of the spaces behind the building, also used by the museum (see first image).

“We parked, but almost immediately the museum staff started knocking on our door, saying we had no right to be there. One woman was particularly nasty to us.”

The couple say that all four of their vehicle’s tyres were then slashed while it was in the car park, and two more a fortnight later. They reported both incidents to the police but the culprit was never found. The police suggested they fit a camera to a tree in the car park but they could not afford to do this. The couple reported these incidents, and the other confrontations to the council.

Peter Connolly is curator of East Surrey Museum. 

“Clive and Emma were apparently told they could use the parking at the rear of the building. However, our lease says we have exclusive use. Volunteers need to park close to the premises, given the amount of materials we transport, and we have visitors with mobility issues.

A volunteer did get frustrated on one occasion when unable to park: we immediately offered our unreserved apologies to the tenants. I’m always happy to talk to them to resolve problems amicably. When we renegotiated our lease, we raised this issue with TDC, and they sent a housing officer to meet us all.”

Tenancy management officer Claire Green confirmed the museum had full use of the parking area during operating hours, and directed the couple to the TDC-owned sheltered housing car park next door. 

The car park at the sheltered housing on Stafford Road, Caterham
Emma was told she could leave her vehicle in this car park

“Claire said anyone with objections could contact her and she’d explain we were allowed to park there,” says Emma. “When residents started shouting at us, I gave them her details.”

While there, the vehicle’s wing mirror was smashed twice and paintwork scratched. Emma claims residents sometimes blocked them in or prevented them from parking. In July, Claire told Emma she had received complaints, and they must stop parking there.

They now have to park a long way down Stafford Road, after the double yellow lines. This has implications for Emma’s children.

“I have five children under 12. My eldest has sigmoid colon dysmotility with a colostomy stoma, and is often not well enough to walk any distance. My six-year-old has ADHD and no sense of danger, so walking on narrow pavements down a busy road with her and my three year old is incredibly stressful.”

She is angry TDC has not resolved the situation. 

“We parked where TDC said, and we’re always civil, but have suffered months of abuse and criminal damage, with no help from them and still nowhere to park.”

TDC gave us this statement:

“The property this family occupies is temporary accommodation, used by the council to accommodate those awaiting longer term accommodation. Parking is difficult for many residents throughout the district, and properties are not generally let with allocated parking. We appreciate this is a difficult situation for the family but we are looking to address it for them as quickly as possible.

On two occasions it was thought the issue had been resolved through attempts to obtain parking at neighbouring sites. Discussions with local partner agencies are continuing in the hope of resolving this issue for the family.”

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