Guide to parking laws

Parking restrictions are usually in place for safety reasons. You can be fined, clamped or towed if you park in the wrong place.

Simon Read

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Parking fines

If you park in the wrong place at the wrong time, break traffic rules, or don’t pay the London congestion charge on time, you’ll usually find a parking ticket on your windscreen - or get one a week or so later in the post.

You’ll be issued with either a penalty charge notice (PCN), excess charge notice, or fixed penalty notice (FPN) by the police, local council or DVSA.

You usually have 28 days to pay and there's often a discount for paying within 14 days. If you don’t pay at all, you could get taken to court.

They’re easy to pay, either online or over the phone – ways to pay will be on your PCN.

If you parked dangerously, you could be issued with an MS10 offence code too. It’ll stay on your licence for four years and you’ll get three penalty points.

Key points

  • Parking restrictions are usually in place to keep pedestrians and other drivers safe
  • You can be fined, clamped or towed if you park in the wrong place
  • Parking fines and towing charges don’t have an impact on the price you pay for car insurance
  • If you park dangerously, you could be issues with an offence code (MS10), which comes with three penalty points. This will have an impact on the price you pay

What if my car gets clamped or towed away?

There are a few reasons your car could be clamped, but the most common are improper parking or parking on public land without road tax.

If you've been clamped, you’ll find details either left on your windscreen, or on the clamp, telling you who to contact to pay to get it removed. When you talk to the clamper, ask to see their licence and take their details. You can check these with the Security Industry Authority (SIA) on 08702 430 100.

Don’t try and remove the clamp yourself – it won’t be easy and you could be charged with criminal damage.

It's illegal for your car to be clamped or towed on private land. If it happens, tell them to remove it straightaway.

If you think your car’s been towed, you'll need to find out where it is. Londoners can call Trace on 0845 206 8602. Elsewhere, you can call the police non-emergency number 101.

You’ll usually have to pay a vehicle release fee, the penalty charge notice and storage fees. Storage fees get charged per day if your car's been at the pound overnight. Take proof of ownership and ID with you too.

How to challenge parking tickets

If you think you were issued a charge unfairly, you can contest it - you’ve got 28 days from the date of issue to challenge it.

1. Find out who the ticket is from

Before you challenge the ticket, you need to find out who issued it to you. Official tickets - from the local council, Transport for London or the police - will be called penalty charge notice, excess charge notice or fixed penalty notice.

Tickets from private firms will have different names, like parking charge notice, and have a different appeal process to official tickets.

2. Check the rules

Before you can appeal, you need to know if you have reasonable grounds to. Official grounds for appeal include:

  • Incorrect road signs
  • The traffic warden made a mistake. For example, they didn’t see your blue badge
  • You've already paid the fine
  • There’s an error on the ticket or letter
  • The traffic rules were wrong
  • You didn’t own the car at the time
  • Your car was stolen

Outside of these, you’ll find it very hard to appeal a penalty charge notice.

3. Gather evidence

Take photos of where your vehicle is parked, any signs that will help your appeal, or where you believe a sign is missing.

Keep all paperwork. If you paid at a meter to park, keep this ticket. Keep hold of any letters or emails you've sent to the authorities too.

If anyone can confirm your case, things like signs not being clear and visible, ask them if they’ll sign a statement for you.

4. Appeal your ticket

Once you've gathered evidence and checked the rules, you can start your appeal - contact the issuing council and explain why you think the parking ticket is unfair.

If your parking ticket is issued to you on the spot, you can make an informal challenge with the council. If you got your penalty charge notice in the post, you'll need to make a formal challenge (called 'representation') on the gov.uk website.

There’s no guarantee you’ll win your appeal, and if you didn’t pay the fine within 14 days, you’ll have to pay the full amount instead.

Parking rules

Everyone makes mistakes when they park sometimes, but the easiest way to avoid a fine is to park where you’re supposed to. So, here’s a recap of the basic rules.

Yellow lines

You can’t park on double yellow lines unless there are signs with guidance. It's best to avoid parking on double yellows at anytime though.

Parking on single yellow lines is only permitted outside the times specified on adjacent signs.

For example, if you're on a street with single yellows and there's a sign that says '8am-6pm', you can’t park there in that time period.

Many yellow lines operate only on certain days. In which case, the sign will say something like '8am-6pm Mon-Fri'.

If you can’t see any signs, play it safe and don’t park on a single yellow.

Red lines

Red lines are the same as yellow ones - never park on double red lines and only park on single red lines in permitted times.

If a box is marked out as a parking space on a red route, it can mean one of two things. If the box markings are white, you can park there within the times specified on the adjacent signs. If the box markings are red, you can only use the space for loading.

Zig-zags

You'll find zig-zag lines outside schools and near pedestrian crossings. Parking on a zig-zag can be an offence at any time if you're seen to be causing an obstruction.

Sometimes there are signs that mean you can park on them at specific times of day, but it's pretty rare.

No return within…

Some parking signs have time restrictions, like '1 hour - no return within 2 hour'. This means you can park in the spot for up to 1 hour, but you can’t return and park there again within 2 hours.

Loading restrictions

You'll see these marked laterally on the kerb. Double and single yellow stripes act the same as yellow parking lines.

Sometimes there’s a sign too that says, 'Loading only' or 'No loading Mon-Sat 8am-8pm'.

Controlled parking zones (CPZ)

These are places where residents pay for permits to park on the street. Sometimes non-residents can park there too, but there’ll usually be either time restrictions or pay-and-display meters.

If you’re visiting someone who lives in a controlled parking zone, they can give you a visitors permit which lets you park there too.

CPZ zones are indicated by a sign at the entrance which sometimes have time periods at the bottom. If there are no times on the sign, the parking restrictions are in place at all times.

Some controlled parking zones only apply to vehicles over a certain weight. Weight restrictions will be displayed on the signs.

Paying at meters

Ticket machines will show you cost per hour, and which hours need to be paid for.

Outside of those hours there's no charge, unless you’re not allowed to park there out-of-hours, in which case the machine will say so.

Traditionally these machines take cash, although some modern machines can accept card payments. You can pay for most over the phone these days too.

Always check if you need to pay on arrival or before you leave. Most car parks that use automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) require you to pay before you leave.

Can I give my ticket to somebody else in a car park?

Giving your ticket to another driver may seem like a kind gesture, but it could land you in trouble, even if there is time left on the ticket.

Most car park operators insist every driver pays for their own ticket and that tickets are ‘non-transferable’. If you get caught, you could get fined.

Private parking crack down

New research* from GoCompare has found that a quarter of UK motorists have been given a Parking Charge Notice from a private parking company.

These out-of-luck drivers have been fined £56 on average and some have even been intimidated into parting with their cash.

In fact, more people are caught out by private parking firms than those that incur local authority Penalty Charge Notices.

15% of drivers incurred Parking Charge Notices in privately-owned town and city car parks, while 12% came back to a ticket when parking at hospitals or clinics.

The top reason for getting a Parking Charge Notice, experienced by 35% of drivers, was due to overstaying the free parking time limit.

24% stayed longer than the time paid for, while 14% were confused by poor signage.

Another 13% didn’t realise they had to pay for parking and 9% were issued tickets for not parking within the designated space.

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*On 30 January 2019, Bilendi conducted an online survey among 2,000 randomly selected British adults who are Maximiles UK panellists. The margin of error-which measures sampling variability-is +/- 2.2%. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and regional data to ensure samples representative of the entire adult population of United Kingdom. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

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