DRIVERS are being advised not to pay parking tickets issued by a parking management firm operating in front of Ealing Broadway Station.

The head of Ealing Council's trading standards department told the Ealing Times that people hit with the notices issued by Park Direct should wait until the company starts court proceedings before paying the fines of £160.

However the owner of Park Direct has warned anyone not paying tickets will be taken to county court and be hit with the full costs.

Dozens of people from across the country have contacted the paper as part of our clamping campaign, complaining about fines issued while they backed into bays to allow people to pass, or to collect loved ones.

Doug Love, head of trading standards at Ealing Council, said: "Contrary to what it says on the top of the notices this company are sending out, the driver and not the registered keeper is liable.

"These tickets should not be mistaken for fines, they are in fact just claims.

"This is a private parking company and, as such, the notices they send out for vehicles on private property are matters of civil law, and are not a criminal matter, like tickets issued by local authorities.

"The only way they can successfully sue the driver is to pursue it through the county court, and then the court will decide the level of compensation to award for the inconvenience."

One driver who been issued with a ticket is Peter Pribisevic, who lives in Nichols Green, Ealing.

He was so incensed by the ticket, he spent an hour stopping drivers from parking in the bays to help them avoid being issued with similar claims.

He said: "I was given a ticket after my car was used to drop someone off at the station.

"I went down to the station and watched as the operatives for the company took photos of unsuspecting people.

"They had one van parked across two disabled bays and the other on the double yellow lines outside the station which meant people were forced into the parking bays.

"I decided to warn people not to park there, and kept stepping in front of one girl as she went to take photos of cars pulling in.

"The signs down there at the time were tiny and placed in bays so you had to pull into them before you saw them, and by then it is too late.

"These companies need better regulation to stop them charging such huge amounts. If they want to stop people parking in the bays they should use bollards."

However, Albie Saliba, the owner of Park Direct, insists the company is doing nothing illegal, and will pursue claims through the courts if necessary. He added that a new sign had been put up at the entrance last week.

In a frank interview he said: "My company are one of the most professional in the business, all my employees wear uniforms and are trained to behave responsibly.

"This is an incredibly busy area and the rate people come in and out means if they were allowed to park in the bays there would be no room for the shopkeepers there, and that is the reason we choose to avoid clamping.

"Any unpaid tickets are passed on to a debt collection firm who will pursue this issue through the courts if necessary, and if drivers choose to go that far they can expect to be hit with the full claim, which includes lawyers' fees.

"I believe the signs at the station are as good as they can be, I want to make it as clear as possible for people not to park there.

"We are always fair in the way we carry out our business, and our aim is to stop people parking where they shouldn't."

He also promised to take action against the employees who had parked across the disabled bays saying it was against company policy.