People are more demanding, more mobile and more diverse in how they spend their time than ever before. Is it surprising then that parking controls and charges reflect this out of necessity? Motorists rightly expect the same quality of service in the evenings as they do in the daytime and the costs of providing safety and security patrols, and a range of other services to ensure that the car park operates safely and effectively throughout its working life have to be met by someone, somewhere. Increasingly that someone is the user of that car park. So why is this considered unfair?
Proper and effective parking and traffic management is essential to support sustainable growth in our town centres and high streets. Local authority parking managers are clear that their job is about reducing congestion and improving road safety in order to help revitalise the high street. The private sector provides most of the parking nowadays and private companies are working hard, keeping our car parks free from obstruction caused by indiscriminately parked cars; improving safety; protecting spaces for residents or particular groups like disabled people; enabling servicing and deliveries to take place in retail parks that would become congested if parking wasn't managed.
- We are all affected by the need for effective parking management;
- Availability of spaces at our chosen retail or leisure location.
- The ability for our parking space at home or office to be free for us to use when we wish.
- Protecting spaces and parents with children.
- Safe entry and egress from our chosen destination.
Whilst many motorists expect car parking to be free, the limits on space, costs involved and demand for spaces means that car parking needs to be managed properly. Often the most effective way to do this is by charging for parking.
- the value of a car parking space
- the needs of other users of the facility
- the environmental impact of driving and,
- the need to maintain and improve car parks by reinvesting income
Good quality, well designed and properly maintained parking provision is vital to the success of the UK's parking facilities. Through the setting and raising of standards, we believe that providing, managing and charging for parking needs to be seen in the context of delivering a better and fairer service to users.
The BPA works with the Association of Town & City Management (ATCM) to support the work being done to revitalize the UK’s town and city centres.
ATCM researched car parking in town centres and high streets in Rethink! Parking on the High Street. Produced by ATCM, BPA, Springboard Research Ltd and Parking Data & Research International (PDRI), it finds no clear relationship between charges and the amenities on offer in a location, and suggests that further research is needed.
Key issues for drivers, research carried out by Sweeney Communication on behalf of the Safer Parking Scheme, showed motorist’s main priorities in choosing where to park are personal safety and location joint first, safe environment third, with tariffs being as low as fourth.
Private management of car parks
The private management of car parks is commercially necessary for landholders. They have a right to manage their private land as they see fit and allow motorists to use this land for parking under certain terms and conditions.
The contracts, and its clauses, are necessary to prevent abuse of private land. This is commercially necessary as the landholder needs to manage their land in order to ensure that their business can run successfully.
The terms and conditions of parking on private land are derived by agreements between the landholder and their contractor or car parking management company, and it is the obligation of the motorist to comply with these when they park in the car park.
We believe these terms and conditions are generally reasonable and fair; however, if the motorist believes them not to be, they always have the option leave and not enjoy the benefits offered from using the car park.
Terms and conditions of parking
Only a small minority of motorists fail to comply with the parking terms and conditions
We understand there may be concern regarding the number of parking tickets that are issued each year. While the numbers may look high on their own, they must be put into context of the total number of cars that park in some 20,000 locations across the UK each year. For example, much was made about the 11,498 tickets issued by the operator responsible for managing a large retail park in the north-west of England during a three-year period. Further analysis determined that, during that same period, some 3.3 million motorists had visited the location and had parked there and, furthermore, had followed the terms and conditions - a compliance rate of 99.65%.
Breaching the terms and conditions of parking is not a victimless action and contrary to what many believe, there's no such thing as a free parking space - somebody is paying for it. This is true everywhere: in town centres, at the beach and in the countryside. Some car parks may be free at the point of use but someone has to pay for their upkeep, maintenance and other associated facility costs. If they are patrolled to keep them safe, then someone is paying for that too. So-called free parking is subsidised in some way, either by council tax payers or business ratepayers or a combination of both.
When is the most appropriate time to challenge the terms of a contract – before or after entering it?
It has been noted on many occasions by both operators and the Parking on Private Land Appeals Service (POPLA) that motorists include, within their appeal, submissions that the parking charge is unreasonable or is a ‘penalty’. We would contend that it is too late at this point for the motorist to indicate their unhappiness with the parking charge – this should have been done as soon as they saw the signs that would have clearly stated the parking terms and conditions, including charges for breach of them at the location. If the motorist is not prepared to pay such charges and is unhappy with the contract terms, they should not remain at the location and they should seek to park elsewhere.
There is no doubt that some form of reasonableness test needs to be established with regards to the Parking Charge Notice amounts. The following aspects should be taken into consideration:
- Comparison with the charges levied by local authorities on regulated land, which vary between £25 and £105.
- That it is reasonable for a private parking operator as a commercial entity to make a profit.
- Proportionality with the costs incurred/loss suffered by the landowner and/or the operator.
- That the fee charged is not extravagant or unconscionable.
- That in order to have been issued with a Parking Charge Notice, the motorist will have breached the advertised terms and conditions of parking.
- That the charges must be calculated in such a way as to deter a motorist from breaching the terms and conditions.
The level of charge for a Parking Charge Notice
In October 2012, in response to public opinion and after significant pressure from Government Ministers and motoring/consumer organisations, the BPA reduced the stated recommended maximum charge that a motorist should be expected to pay for a breach of the parking contract, or for an act of trespass, from £150 to £100. It should be remembered, of course, that the BPA is legally unable to control or regulate any prices charged by its members. We are constantly reminded of this by the competition and consumer trading regulators in their various guises. Nevertheless, the actions of the Association were welcomed by all stakeholders.
There are a number of instances where Parking Charge Notice amounts have been tested at the Court of Appeal and other Courts – in all instances the charge amounts have been found to be ‘fair and reasonable’.
The Court of Appeal did not consider a parking charge of £85 issued by a private parking company as unenforceable or unfair in the case of Beavis vs ParkingEye (2015).
A charge of £75 was found by HHJ Hegarty QC in the case of ParkingEye v Somerfield Stores (2011) to be a reasonable charge, by which the motorist (when exceeding the specified time limit) would be contractually bound.
See also Combined Parking Solutions v Dorrington (2012) and Combined Parking Solutions v Blackburn (2007). Further evidence that parking charges cannot be viewed as penalties, can be found in Mayhook v National Car Parks and Fuller (2012), Combined Parking Solutions v Mr Stephen James Thomas (2008) and Combined Parking Solutions v De Brunner (2007).