To clarify fact from fiction here are some answers to our most frequently asked questions relating to penalty charge notices and parking tickets.
Local authorities must give a 10 minute grace period to vehicles parked in dedicated paid for parking bays after the expiry of paid for time. It is not a free parking period and in order to benefit from it you must have first paid for parking.
There is also a grace period at the start of parking controls. So for example where parking enforcement starts at 8.30am, if you are already parked in the space you should be given 10 minutes before a penalty charge notice can be issued.
The grace period only applies to paid for parking bays. It does not apply to resident’s permit bays or yellow lines.
Find out more: The Deregulation Act 2015
A traffic warden or parking attendant will usually observe a vehicle for a few minutes to see if any activity is going on before issuing a ticket.
Different local authorities have different policies. For example in London, Camden & Westminster PA’s are meant to observe a vehicle for 20 minutes to see if it is loading whereas Barnet has no observation period and this may well change at any time.
To be valid, the ticket must be either handed to the driver, fixed to the vehicle or the CEO must have started the process of issuing the ticket. If the latter then the penalty charge notice can be sent by post. If however you receive a Notice to Owner in the post rather than a penalty charge notice then you should write to the issuing council, explaining that the PCN was not handed to you or affixed to the vehicle and ask for it to be cancelled. If they will not cancel it, then you may want to appeal.
Also camera enforcement of parking offences obviously does not require a PCN to be placed on a windscreen.
The only exception to this rule is in some seaside and other holiday towns where the double yellow lines only apply during holiday seasons. In such circumstances the lines should be clearly signposted. Single yellow lines now apply for any restriction that is less than ‘at any time’ and it is essential that you check the signs. If there is no roadside signage it means that the single yellow line operates during the controlled hours of the zone in which it is situated. Quite often the controlled zone signs at the entry points are defaced, pointing in the wrong direction or missing altogether. If there are no CPZ signs on both sides of the road at every entry point, then you have grounds for appeal as the contravention did not occur if it is not signposted correctly.
We would suggest that you check the website of the local authority concerned.
It is standard practice for councils to ‘stop the clock’ whilst they consider an initial representation. Some tickets state that you cannot make a representation until you receive a notice to owner after 28 days but most, including Transport for London, will stop the clock and preserve the discount if you make a representation within 14 days. If they reject it they will almost certainly give you the opportunity to pay at the reduced rate provided that you do so within 14 days of their notification.
If you think that you have a good case then go all the way. Don’t be put off by local authorities telling you that you will lose the discount. You will only lose the discount if you lose at adjudication and many local authorities don’t even contest some of the cases that go to the parking adjudicator.
If the T-bar is missing then the line is not legal and, therefore, not enforceable. However there was one appeal where the adjudicator found against a motorist because, whilst he agreed that the yellow should have had a “T” bar he said “the law does not concern itself with trifles”.
We think this is incorrect because either the markings comply or do not comply just like if you receive a ticket for parking one inch outside a bay this is technically a contravention which may be regarded by some as a “trifle” You can also successfully appeal if lines or their road markings are eroded or obstructed which in our opinion is quite often the case.
Obviously if you parked near the end of a yellow line but didn’t know where it ended due to the absence of a “T” then you have a better chance than if you parked a fair way from the end of the yellow line and are appealing on a technicality.
Westminster council announced many years ago that feeding a meter within their borough would no longer be a contravention. However the same does not necessarily apply to other boroughs and you will need to check carefully the conditions of use on the meter or pay & display machine to see if it is an offence in the location which you wish to park.
You should also be aware that although meter feeding is no longer an offence in Westminster you are still only allowed to remain on a parking meter or pay and display bay for the maximum time allowed i.e. if you park on a meter with a maximum stay of two hours and you initially pay for 1 ½ hours you cannot subsequently insert money for a further one hour.
Some local authorities now have alternative methods of paying for parking. For example credit card and more recently pay by phone.
You are under an obligation to both “pay” and “display” – far safer to place the ticket, face up, on the dash board. However if you send in the ticket (keep a copy) you may be successful – particularly if the ticket adhesive has deteriorated. In any event the local authority does have discretion and it would be unfair to fine you if through no fault of your own the ticket came unstuck.
Adjudicators can award costs to appellants or councils if either party acts “frivolously, vexaciously, or wholly unreasonably”. The award of costs is the exception rather than the rule. With very little indeed awarded each year. However, you should ask the adjudicator for costs if you think you have grounds.
The question of the awarding of costs is addressed in Regulation 12 of The Road Traffic (Parking Adjudicators) (London) Regulations 1993.
“12 (1) The adjudicator shall not normally make an order awarding costs and expenses, but may, subject to paragraph (2) make such an order –
(a) against a party (including an appellant who has withdrawn his appeal or a local authority that has consented to an appeal being allowed) if he is of the opinion that, that party has acted frivolously or veraciously or that his conduct in making, pursuing or resisting an appeal was wholly unreasonable: or
(b) against the local authority, where it considers that the disputed decision was wholly unreasonable.
(2) An order shall not be made under paragraph (1) against a party unless that party has been given an opportunity of making representations against the making of the order.
(3) An order under paragraph (1) shall require the party against whom it is made to pay the other party a specified sum in respect of the costs and expenses incurred by that other party in connection with the proceedings.”
The crucial points are the interpretation of the words ‘frivolously’, ‘veraciously’ and ‘wholly unreasonable’. According to the Thesaurus synonyms for ‘frivolously’ include;- trivial, petty, trifling and unimportant. ‘veraciously’ – troublesome, distressing, harsh, ‘unreasonable’ – inadequate, unfair, unjust, intolerable.
It would appear that it would be ‘wholly unreasonable’ if a council refused to cancel a PCN on a point of fact. For example, where evidence had been provided of loading/unloading taking place or where signs were either missing or inadequate or when you have provided clear photographic evidence of poor or missing signage when the contravention did not occur.
The National Parking Adjudications Service says that, in view of circular 1/95 PAs should wear hats during enforcement activity, but goes on to say that a PA not wearing headgear would not in itself be grounds for an appeal but could be considered as part of an appeal. The adjudicator would have to give it the importance he thought relevant to the case.
However, when does grey become silver become white? Or green become turquoise become blue? If such instances were taken to appeal, an adjudicator may take the view that the colour was accurate enough for the ticket to be valid. The fact that the colour of a vehicle has been recorded incorrectly may not guarantee that an appeal to the adjudicator will be upheld.
We can also confirm that we have seen instances of the fraudulent issue of tickets ourselves. In one such instance in January 2004 we witnessed a parking attendant screw up a ticket and throw it in the bin. We retrieved the ticket from the bin and wrote to Westminster council. In fact we wrote to Westminster council on no fewer than 4 occasions. After 6 months we received an apology that our complaint had not been taken more seriously and confirmation that a copy of our letter had been placed on the parking attendants file. In our opinion the parking attendant should have been dismissed and prosecuted by the police for fraud.
A significant number of visitors to our websites complain about the practice of ‘ghost tickets’ and we noted in a report from the Parking Scrutiny Panel from Camden that their Representations Department are instructed to cancel tickets where representations have been made in such circumstances. Obviously it is difficult to prove that you did not receive the ticket in the first place but it is also difficult for councils to disprove it unless of course they have taken a digital photograph clearly showing the ticket. Consequently we are sure that some motorists may appeal on this basis even if they did receive the ticket which of course we cannot advocate. If the PCN was not handed to you or placed on your windscreen it is simply not valid and you must appeal unless of course it was issued by an enforcement camera. However you should be aware that since March 2007 local authorities can actually serve a penalty charge notice by post if the civil enforcement officer had started to issue the ticket but was either prevented from serving it or you drove off before he could complete the issuing of it.
Very few local authorities actually have parking metres nowadays and actually a decreasing number have pay and display machines. The trend is for pay by phone payment. We do hear of cases where motorists pay by phone or think they have paid and then receive a ticket as the payment didn’t actually go through. In such cases we would always recommend appealing.