The early part of 2022 saw British motorists face a number of new regulations in how they can park their vehicles without falling foul of the law, as administered by much maligned civilian enforcement officers (CEFs), still known almost universally as traffic wardens. The subject of parking always comes very high on the list of grievances reported in surveys of UK drivers, with many feeling unfairly treated and unable to find a halfway decent parking space which doesn’t cost a fortune. In fact, parking rules differ somewhat within the country; something which these new regulations hope to go some way to addressing.
Positive Private Parking Changes
What motorists seem to want more than anything in the rules they have to follow is straightforwardness. With this in mind, developments like the online check MOT service are seen as very positive, helping vehicle owners keep abreast of their commitments in good time, while maintaining high standards of road safety. In this same spirit, the Department for Transport (DfT) has finally implemented a Private Parking Code of Practice (PPCP). This comes almost ten years after wheel clamping in private car parks was made illegal. Since then, however, private operators have found ever more ways of bringing in revenue from unsuspecting motorists; these measures in turn can be very worrying for some drivers.
In answering parking surveys, owners report incidents of facing charges for either minor or completely unexplained infractions. These often come as a result of signage which is – either deliberately or accidentally – unclear or hard to physically access. Even parking meters can be the cause of fines, with the slightest slip of a finger leading to what operators will call incorrect information. In many cases, any such “offence” incurs an automatic charge, which is then sold as a matter of course to debt collection agencies. The first a motorist may know about this situation is when a letter drops through the door demanding payment; these letters are often worded in pseudo-legalese language, designed to make drivers pay without questioning the nature of their “offence”.
Under the PPCP, any non-serious parking offence comes with a maximum fine of £50. Even better, this will be reduced by half if payment is made early. The issue of debt collectors is also addressed, as no third party agency or individual can chase up an unpaid parking charge. On the ground, the scheme also introduced a grace period of ten minutes; this applies to the issuing of tickets, and for time a driver is allowed to spend actually reading the terms and conditions applicable to their parking space. This means an over-zealous employee cannot slap a ticket on a vehicle while the driver is looking for/at signage. Any wording has to be easily understandable, including advice on how appeal.
Meanwhile, another aspect of car parking is also under scrutiny by the DfT; this is the ever increasing phenomenon of parking on footpaths. As space becomes ever scarcer in villages, towns, suburbs and city centres, many thousands of motorists choose to leave their vehicles partly parked on the road, and partly on the footpath. Although many will see this as a compromise which allows the flow of traffic and pedestrians, many user groups strongly disagree. This type of parking also leads to damage for vehicles, as owners find out when it’s time to check MOT fitness. In fact, this activity is already illegal in London; any such vehicle is likely to be lifted from its spot and taken away on the back of a flatbed truck. Under new proposals being taken seriously by government, this practice could be rolled out across the rest of England, and possibly the whole of the UK.
The capital is at the forefront of legislation to control car use in its urban centre, having pioneered such initiatives as the congestion charge. Successive administrations in boroughs and at city level have been consistent in their view that too much private traffic causes ill health and is bad for business. While London could be seen as an exceptional location in many ways, urban leaders across the country are now taking these issues seriously.
Charging drivers for using city centres makes them less likely to do so, which in turn means less pressure on parking spaces. With wheelchair users, visually impaired people and other groups suffering due to pavement parking, reducing its prevalence is becoming a high priority. This, combined with greater efforts to reduce pollution, may finally mean that parking on footpaths is outlawed nationwide.