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Parking FAQs

To clarify fact from fiction here are some answers to our most frequently asked questions relating to penalty charge notices and parking tickets.

 

Aren’t traffic wardens supposed to give ‘a few minutes grace’ before issuing a ticket in parking bays?
10 Minute Mandatory Grace Period in Parking Bays.

From 6 April 2015, 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 will 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

Aren’t traffic wardens supposed to give ‘a few minutes grace’ before issuing a ticket on a single yellow line?
Contrary to popular misconception, you are not – and never have been – permitted to stop for a ‘a few minutes’ other than to set down or pick up passengers or load and unload goods (in the absence of any loading restrictions) on a single yellow line. 

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.

If I return to my car whilst a civil enforcement officer is standing next to it but drive off before the PCN can be either handed to me or fixed to the vehicle, am I still liable?
This depends on whether the civil enforcement officer has started the process of issuing the ticket.

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 later 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.

If a parking ticket is illegable is it still valid?
No it must be legible.

Can single yellow lines apply after 6.30 pm or on Sundays?
Yes! Single yellow lines can apply for anything between one and twenty-three hours per day and also on Sundays and Bank Holidays. Double yellow lines always mean ‘at any time’ and the need to have an accompanying sign was dropped in April 2003.

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.

Do waiting restrictions (yellow lines) apply on public holidays?
There is a motoring myth that Bank Holidays are the same as Sundays and that waiting restrictions do not apply. If the sign says ‘Mondays – Saturdays’ then that includes Bank holiday Mondays. For Public Holidays to be exempt the sign would also have to include ‘Except Public Holidays’.  However most local authorities do not charge on pay & display bays and some do no not enforce yellow lines on Public Holidays. Resident only bays are however usually enforced.

We would suggest that you contact the local authority concerned.

To avoid having to pay a ticket at the full price is it advisable to send a cheque for the discounted price with a challenge in case it is unsuccessful?
No. If you send a cheque with your challenge to the validity of a ticket it is almost certain that the council will bank the cheque and close the case.

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 a significant proportion of cases that go to the parking adjudicator.

Are yellow lines legal if they don’t have a T-bar where they end?
In accordance with the traffic engineer’s bible – Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions – yellow lines must have a T-bar where they terminate or change from double to single or vice versa or indeed where a yellow line ends and a different type of enforcement commences for example pay and display or permit holders bays.

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.

What happens if one arrives at a parking meter without change? Is time allowed to get some?
No!  The regulations require that you put the money into the parking meter immediately after leaving your car. You must insert all the money required for the period of your stay at the outset. You are not usually allowed to return to your vehicle and insert further money as this is a contravention known as ‘meter feeding’.

In June 2005 Westminster council announced 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.

What happens if one sticks a pay-and-display ticket on the windscreen and it falls, face down, on the dashboard before returning to the vehicle?
You will receive a Penalty Charge Notice!

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.

If I go to appeal and win can I claim costs?

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.

Is it true that a parking ticket is not valid if it is issued by a parking attendant not wearing a hat?
The Department for Transport guidance circular 1/95 says “when carrying out prescribed functions, (and issuing a PCN is one such function) parking attendants are subject to the Parking Attendants (Wearing of Uniforms) (London) regulations 1993.”

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.

If the colour of the vehicle is incorrectly recorded on a parking ticket, is it valid?
PAs are required to make a note of a number of things, including the colour of the vehicle, all of which must be correctly recorded for the ticket to be valid. If the PA recorded the vehicle as being white when, in fact, it was black there could be little argument that the information was incorrect and the ticket therefore, invalid.

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.

What should you do if a Notice to Owner (NtO) arrives for a parking ticket that you did not know had been issued by a council employed parking attendant?
A London Assembly investigation a few years ago revealed that instances of fraudulent ticketing do occur and also confirmed instances of “ghost tickets” where parking attendants issue tickets after a vehicle has driven away and claim that it was put on the vehicle. The owner only finds out about the alleged offence when an NtO arrives 28 days later.

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.

Can I appeal if the signs or road markings are confusing, illegible or missing or obscured?
From our experience a great number of signs are missing throughout London and nationwide and many yellow lines and parking bay markings are badly eroded.
Can I park on the meter bay if the meter is completely missing?
Yes you can park if the meter was completely missing but not if the meter is marked ‘out of order’.

Next: Parking Statutory Guidance

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