THE opening night of ‘Guys and Dolls’ at Brighouse Civic Hall was marred for many members of the audience when they were issued with tickets for using a nearby car park.
The theatregoers, including invited guests from amateur musical societies around the area, were caught out by recently-imposed regulations on the M&Co car park in King Street. Since September a controversial two-hour parking limit has been imposed on the car park - 24 hours a day. The car park is owned by Yorkshire Co-operative and parking regulations are enforced by UKCPS.
David Ellis, former president of Brighouse Theatre Productions, said: “Many of our VIP guests and members of the audience come from out of town and have parked in the car park quite satisfactorily in the past on show nights.
“As soon as we realised that some people had parked in M&Co’s car park and had been given tickets, we issued a warning and suggested that they move their cars in the interval. But by the time they got back to the cars they were over the two-hour limit, though some by only ten minutes or so, and had already received tickets.”
Mr Ellis said there was a poster advertising the show displayed in the same car park and it was hard to avoid the conclusion that motorists were being targetted. He thought many people would challenge their parking fines.
“I think it shows a complete absence of community spirit and goodwill on the part of the car park’s owners. It was evening time and the store was closed. As soon as they reasonably could, people went back and moved their cars. It was very disputive for them to have leave in the middle of the show.”
Chairman Richard Mitchell said the society put up notices on the door of the Civic Hall and in prominent places in the building to warn motorists of the parking regulations as soon as the problem was realised.
“I made an announcement from the stage and we did our best to inform people about the situation. People have used the car park for years when coming to our shows and this is the first year there has been this problem. Even one of the members of the chorus got a ticket.”
The gala night on Wednesday was attended by the Mayor of Calderdale and guests from other societies.
Richard Donaldson, associate of Sanderson Weatherall LLP which manages the car park, said: “The new parking restriction is clearly signposted and should not therefore cause a problem to anyone from out of town. There has been no deliberate ticketing of theatregoers although we were not aware of the car park being in high demand after the store closed.
“We will monitor car park usage at these times and see if there is anything we can do to make parking easier after the store is closed.”
n Winning formula – P.20
n Parking nightmare – Letters P.14