Fury at £150 fines for users of sports centre

Happier times: Alan Doyle and Dacorum Borough Council's Councillor Terry Douris celebrate new lane ropes at Sportspace.
Happier times: Alan Doyle and Dacorum Borough Council's Councillor Terry Douris celebrate new lane ropes at Sportspace.

Users of a town’s main sports centre are furious that from Thursday they will face £150 fines for using its car parks for more than three hours.

They learned the news from signs that appeared outside of Hemel Hempstead Sportspace late last week.

The fine is reduced to £75 if they pay within 14 days – but sports clubs were not consulted about the change.

Hemel Hempstead Swimming Club, which has 240 members, uses the centre on Tuesday and Thursday evenings – for longer than three hours on both nights.

Head coach Alan Doyle said: “We are there for sessions that we have paid for and we could fall foul of this parking fine.”

The centre is also home to Sapphire School of Gymnastics. More than 1,000 people use the club, including 15-year-old British gymnastics champion Gabby Jupp.

Yet the first the club heard about the new rule was late on Monday night after Sportspace was contacted by the Gazette about the change.

Sportspace began publicising the change on their Facebook page on Tuesday morning – but on Monday admitted not having told their own staff about it.

Users said it will inconvenience people who use the centre’s out-door pool in summer and those who want to go to back-to-back classes or eat in its cafe after exercise.

Mr Doyle said: “Parents will now have to think really hard about whether they can send their child to more than one sports club.”

From Thursday drivers will have to enter their registration number into a console when they visit Sportspace if they plan on parking there for more than 20 minutes.

Sportspace says the rule aims to stop people using its car park before going elsewhere and that the limit will be extended for special events or athletes in training.

Spokesman Elise Hyslop said a public consultation was ‘not necessary’: “We are doing this to try and make our customers’ lives easier.”