National Trust member criticises new parking charges
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Tony Birchall was visiting Preston for the day earlier in December and needed to park in the town centre for a lunchtime appointment. But after finding a place in a pay-and-display he was stumped by the fact the machine was cash-only. Mr Birchall returned to his car to try and pull together enough change, but was short by some margin. “I sat in the car and I only had £1.60 on me,” he explained.
Mr Birchall then got out of his car to take photos of the machine in order to prove he didn’t have enough money to pay the fee.
It was then he began to notice another man approaching the pay point.
“I saw this man walking across the main road, he was an older guy, he crossed the road and saw me and sort of started loitering around the pay station,” Mr Birchall said.
He saw that the man was likely homeless and explained his predicament and frustration at not being able to use a card to pay.
“He was looking at me and he asked ‘how much do you need? I’ve got some money’”, said Mr Birchall.
“I said no and asked if there was a cashpoint nearby, but he said it was a good walk away, especially in the rain.”
Mr Birchall again refused the offer of help but the man was insistent, telling him ‘not to be stupid’ and ‘to take the money.’
“He said ‘give it back if you see me again’, but I knew I wouldn’t see him again because he’s in Preston and I’m in Crewe,” Mr Birchall said. “He said: ‘if you see me you see me, if you don’t you don’t’.”
Eventually Mr Birchall took the money and paid for the parking session.
But not before he had raced to a nearby cashpoint to get some money to give the homeless man his cash back “with some compound interest.”
“He said to me ‘bloody hell that was quick!’”
Mr Birchall explained to him that he didn’t want the man to be left out in the rain.
After attending his two-hour appointment, Mr Birchill returned to his car and again saw the man near the car park.
“As I walked past he said thank you and told me he had been homeless for a number of years and he really appreciated it,” said Mr Birchall.
“I used to donate to a shelter years ago, but you could see genuinely he was homeless and I thought, how trusting is that?
“He doesn’t know me, for him to offer that to me in hope he might get it back when he has nothing himself.”
And Mr Birchall was keen to let others know of his brush with generosity.
On his drive home he spoke to colleagues on the phone and let them know about his experience, saying he hoped the man knew he was thankful.
He said the brief friendship had left him feeling more positive in the run up to Christmas.
“People shouldn’t take others at face value,” he said, “I went into chit chat with him and it was very good of him to see I was up against it.”
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