Council ‘gesture of goodwill’ as Leytonstone food bank coordinator falls foul of parking rules twice in a month

A food bank coordinator fined twice in one month says parking suspensions make it too risky to collect donations in Leytonstone town centre.

The Leytonstone Community Fridge collects surplus food donated by local shops and distributes it for free to hundreds of people a year.

Coordinator Diana Korchien says she has struggled to carry out this essential work since all parking bays in the town centre were suspended on June 1.

In one month she received two £130 parking fines, for a “combined total of 10 minutes illegal parking”, and in both cases her attempt to appeal was rejected.

After being contacted by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, the council has chosen to refund the fines “as a gesture of goodwill” but did not state whether the charity would be exempt from further fines.

Speaking before the refund was offered, Diana said: “The Leytonstone Community Fridge is an essential money-saving and food waste-reducing resource for people impacted by job losses, homelessness, and family responsibilities they need to meet.

“The council has consistently supported our work, but not, it seems, the manner in which we need to carry it out.

“I regularly pick up extremely large and heavy bags of surplus food donated by local businesses in the Town Centre. With the current parking suspensions, I have received a PCN twice, on July 1 and July 21, for a combined total of 10 minutes’ illegal parking.

“I appealed the PCN on the grounds that I was using the vehicle to carry out essential voluntary work, but lost. £130 is a lot of money for a voluntary organisation to waste on an undeserved parking fine.

“The really sad result of this situation, is that without a special PCN exemption, I can no longer collect surplus food from any business in the town centre.

“It is time for the council to start using some joined-up thinking, protecting organisations which are carrying out essential voluntary work, in areas supported by it. ID cards on the windscreen proclaiming EXEMPT should be the way forward.”

The Leytonstone Community Fridge operates outside the Leytonstone Methodist Church on the High Road on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, from noon until food runs out.

Both parking fines were for £130, reduced to £65 if the fine was paid within 14 days.

In a statement issued on Wednesday August 26, deputy leader Cllr Clyde Loakes said: “As in several parts of London, we suspended on-street parking along Leytonstone High Road to reduce congestion and make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to safely visit and support local businesses while maintaining social distancing.

“The council actively reviews the measures put in place with government guidance to ensure the health and safety of the Waltham Forest community.

“Arrangements for businesses, charities and other organisations to load and unload goods are also in place and our officers continue to monitor loading bays to ensure those who need access get it.

“Supporting the NHS and critical workers is at the forefront of our parking policy, with over 2,500 free parking exemptions being given to key workers since lockdown.

“A member of our appeals team will be contacting the drivers of both vehicles to arrange refunds as a gesture of goodwill on this occasion.”

Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter