Independent retailers feel they are unfairly penalised when it comes to parking restrictions on loading and unloading goods. Three quarters of independent retailers quizzed this month admit they are unsure about what the rules are for loading and unloading outside their shops, despite knowing there are probably restrictions.

"I think there's a time limit but I think they might have changed it. I'm not sure," says one retailer. Unsurprisingly, 6% of retailers questioned say they have received parking tickets - or that third-party delivery drivers have been penalised, while others describe their narrow escapes from sanctions. "I have to have someone checking for traffic wardens when I'm taking stuff from my car," admits one retailer. "They are so quick to get their tickets out that I can't afford not to."

Retailers feel they already have to cope with restricted space outside their premise, making it harder for third-party deliveries, but the parking rules complicate things further. "The way shop owners are treated by councils is despicable. They seem to do everything possible to make things even more difficult," says one shop owner. "It's not as if we don't pay unbelievable business rates as it is," another adds.

The problem is exacerbated by people who ignore parking restrictions. "I'm near a school and at morning drop-off and home time it's very dangerous outside my shop and my customers can't get near," one retailer says.

News that unloading times in London could be extended has been welcomed by retailers and wholesalers ('Unloading times may be increased', The Grocer, 25 November, p14). Delivery drivers in the capital have unlimited unloading time before 11am, but only 20 minutes after that, making them prone to parking fines. However, some London boroughs are canvassing views on extending this limit, according to the Freight Transport Association. The FTA is to press for a one-hour extension by early January. "Fines get bundled into delivery costs, so it's in everyone's interest to resolve this," says Gordon Telling, FTA head of policy for London, south east and east of England.

Spar wholesaler AF Blakemore & Son delivers to 35 outlets in London and its retail development director Elwyn Davies says that he would go along with increased time for unloading. "We find great difficulty in turning our food wagons around in the time available," he says.