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Pastor fumes over abandoned vehicle

Angry churchman: Dr Leonard Santucci not happy with Transport Control Department (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A pastor was “livid” yesterday after he was refused permission to have an abandoned car removed from his church car park.

Leonard Santucci said he was so fed up with people dumping cars in the parking area that he planned to block it off.

Dr Santucci said it was the third time in less than a year that a vehicle has been abandoned at the Vernon Temple AME Church in Southampton.

The owner of the latest car was warned this week that the car would be removed and possibly dumped if they did not collect it.

Permission to have the car towed away was denied by the Transport Control Department, which said the case was under investigation.

Dr Santucci said: “Somebody just rolled up on our property, parked their car and walked away last Wednesday.

“The police said if I wanted the car moved, I would need to send a letter to the director of the TCD and we did all that.

“I’ve even been to the home of the individual that it was registered to. The family said that the individual does not live there and has not lived there for some time.

“On Monday, we put a note in and on the car informing them that as of noon today it will be dumped.”

The note added: “You are advised to remove this car before said deadline as it will not be extended.”

Dr Santucci said documents in the unlocked car showed its licence expired in March last year.

He arranged for a company to collect the car at noon yesterday but picked up a note in response to his warning letter around an hour before that.

It read: “Coming today Wed 29.2018. Don’t dump yet.”

The church had similar problems last October and again in April.

Dr Santucci said: “They think our property is large enough that they can exercise such liberties.”

He added: “I don’t want the liability. I don’t want people thinking that they can place a vehicle in our yard for weeks and months on end without even as much as the courtesy of a conversation with me. It’s the height of disrespect.”

Minutes before the removal truck was due to arrive, Dr Santucci said he got an e-mail from Jasmin Smith, the director of TCD, minutes before the removal truck was due to arrive.

Ms Smith wrote: “Under section 68, subsection 7, of the Motor Car Act 1951, your church requires approval for storage and disposal of vehicles that are in your possession as defined under the act — approval has not been granted.

“I understand that the owner of the vehicle intends to move the vehicle — the matter is under investigation by this department.”

Dr Santucci said: “I am livid because we are being put through more trouble to have this car removed.”

He added: “I have given a directive that access to our property be chained off within 48 hours so the person who refused to call me beforehand may have to call me when they come and get it.”

The pastor said the car park had never been blocked off before and that it would inconvenience customers of a nearby restaurant who use it when collecting takeaway meals with agreement of the church.

He added: “The whole process for the property owner is ridiculous because it gives more control to the offender so it’s not advisable from my perspective to remove this vehicle and its presence on our property has altered how we will use our property going forward.”

A government spokeswoman said a TCD traffic officer was assigned to the case.

She added: “The vehicle has not been licensed since March 2017. We learnt that the vehicle was sold twice since it was last licensed. The investigation relates to ownership, storage and disposal of the vehicle.”