A UNIQUE double-decker bus designed by art legend Sir Peter Blake came to Chester – and was promptly given a parking ticket.
Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) has been left red-faced after traffic wardens gave the CCA Art Bus, a moving work of art and gallery, a ticket while parked on Watergate Street.
Alex Sharp, owner of the Watergate Street Gallery, had arranged for the touring project to come to Chester and had been liaising with CWaC officers about the visit since April.
But that did not stop parking services deciding the bus was parked illegally and fixing the parking ticket to the windscreen.
CWaC rescinded the parking ticket yesterday morning but Mr Sharp said the farcical situation had made the city a ‘laughing stock’.
“The council knew about the event and signed off on it,” he said.
“We had emails from the council saying it was okay and we even had the police escort us down Watergate Street on the day.
“The idea was that as soon as the barriers go up at 10.30am and all the cars go out we just go down Bridge Street and park at the Cross.
“There was a big crowd and the whole crowd saw us getting ticketed. What kind of message does that send out to people visiting Chester?”
Pop art pioneer Sir Peter designed some of the world’s most famous album covers including Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band for The Beatles.
He designed the CCA Art Bus and some of his work features alongside that of many famous artists inside the bus.
Chester was the only city in the north west on the tour and Mr Sharp hoped the bus would give the city a cultural boost after the failure of the UK City of Culture Bid.
Andy Tabberer, spokesman for the Chester Culture movement, said: “It casts doubt on whether the council wants culture and arts in the city. If they wanted it in the city then they would make it as easy as possible for people.
“The one time someone is allowed to do something they get a parking ticket and they had six months notice. It casts doubt on their ability to organise and facilitate events in the city centre.
“PR disaster seems to be their middle name. For one Chester was picked ahead of Liverpool and Manchester and what happens – we give the bus a parking ticket.”
A spokesman for the CCA Art Bus said the project had not encountered problems with parking previously. She said: “We have never had a ticket before. It is a new one for us.”
Mr Sharp said: “To be fair the parking officer was very apologetic and rang up his boss, Ken Prior, the head of parking, to check whether we should be there or not.
“His boss told him to ticket us so he had to, he was cringing while he was doing it. It is infuriating after working so hard to set this up with the council.
“I don’t know whether there has been no communication within the department or they simply don’t care. It is embarrassing.
“It has got to change now. We have had parking issues with shopping before and now we bring an event to Chester – a big event for the city – and it just makes us a laughing stock.”
Council spokesman Ian Callister said: “The parking ticket was cancelled first thing this morning and we are making further enquiries to discover why the CCA Art Bus was not displaying the special dispensation permit required in these circumstances.”
Mr Sharp said he had never been told he needed a special dispensation permit by the council or any officers.