Government regulation of private parking firms a step closer02 Sep 2020

Government consults on code of practice

Official regulation of the private parking sector has moved a step closer after the government has launched a consultation on a binding Code of Practice that to replace self regulation.

Amongst the measures proposed in the new framework are:

  • A new, tiered approach to parking fines with a cap for less serious offences between £40 and £80 depending on the parking charge system chosen (but both lower than the current £100 cap), and a new, increased fine of up to £120 for drivers who wrongly park in disabled bays or ambulance bays
  • A compulsory 10-minute grace periods before firms can issue a late fine
  • A compulsory 5-minute cooling-off period in which a motorist can consider the terms and conditions and change their mind about parking
  • A crackdown on parking firms using aggressive or pseudo-legal language to intimidate motorists into paying fines
  • A requirement for parking firms to clearly display pricing and terms and conditions of parking, contact details and how to appeal a charge

 
There will also be the establishment of a single, independent, appeals body together with an appeal charter. Under the charter, “motorists could be able to appeal their fine and see it reduced to a maximum of £20, or cancelled entirely if”:

  • they have a mitigating reason for overstaying their parking ticket such as their vehicle breaking down
  • they have made a genuine innocent error, like keying in a digit in their number plate incorrectly
  • they have a valid ticket, permit or Blue Badge but failed to display it correctly

 
RAC Foundation analysis shows that in 2019-20 the DVLA released 8.4 million sets of vehicle keeper records to private parking companies, up a quarter on the previous financial year. The parking firms use the information to send out penalties to drivers they claim have infringed parking regulations.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said:

“The publication of the government’s consultation document alongside the BSI’s draft code of practice is a major milestone in bringing the provisions of Sir Greg Knight’s Parking Act to life.

“It is clearly important that we get the code of practice, and the framework within which it will sit, right, so I would encourage everyone with an interest to respond with their views.”

The government is also consulting on bringing in further restrictions on pavement parking. Three options are being considered:

  1. Improving the Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) process, under which local authorities can already prohibit pavement parking.
  2. A legislative change to allow local authorities with civil parking enforcement powers to enforce against ‘unnecessary obstruction of the pavement’.
  3. A legislative change to introduce a London-style pavement parking prohibition throughout England.

 
Steve Gooding said:

“It is coming up to five years since the then transport minister Andrew Jones promised a fresh look at the issue of pavement parking which probably says something about quite how tricky this issue can be. On the one hand obstructing either the carriageway or the footway can cause real problems. On the other many of our streets were laid out long before motor vehicles appeared, and there’s only so much road space to play with.

“What the government’s current consultation reveals is that it is hard to make clear cut rules to cover issues where the aim is to get drivers to act considerately and public authorities to enforce proportionately – that said the twin keys to making any new approach work will be in ensuring that drivers are very clear about what is and is not allowed to make compliance easy, and in requiring enforcement authorities to publish information on the number and nature of pavement parking tickets issued so the public can see whether an initiative to promote safer walking has turned into a cash cow somewhere along the line.”

ENDS

Contact:

Philip Gomm – Head of External Communications – RAC Foundation

philip.gomm@racfoundation.org | 020 7747 3445 | 07711 776448 | 020 7389 0601 (ISDN)

Notes to editors:

The RAC Foundation is a transport policy and research organisation that explores the economic, mobility, safety and environmental issues relating to roads and their users.

The Foundation publishes independent and authoritative research with which it promotes informed debate and advocates policy in the interest of the responsible motorist. All the Foundation’s work is available at: www.racfoundation.org