Parking is managed in two ways; public and private parking.

Public parking is regulated through the Traffic Management Act. Public car parks are managed by local authorities.

In most of England and Wales, all of Northern Ireland and in Scotland’s cities and larger towns, local authorities will patrol and enforce waiting and loading restrictions. This is known as Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE), or Decriminalised Parking Enforcement (DPE) in Scotland. A local authority will issue a Penalty Charge Notice (parking ticket) when a vehicle appears not to be complying with the rules and regulations.

Where CPE or DPE is not in place local authorities will manage public car parks (Off Street Parking) under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. They issue Fixed Penalty Notices or Excess Charge Notices and these are criminal penalties.

Private parking

Private car parks are managed by a private parking company, these can be at train stations, retail parks, healthcare facilities, universities, private residential areas and railway stations to name a few.

A private parking company will issue a Parking Charge Notice (parking ticket) when a vehicle appears not to be complying with the rules and regulations.

To manage parking on private land the operator must belong to an Accredited Trade Association in order to access keeper details from the DVLA, but in order to do so must adhere to the scheme’s Code of Practice.

 Nobody likes receiving parking tickets but if you do, here’s some information about how tickets are issued and the different types.


Penalty Charge Notices

A Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) is commonly known as a parking ticket.

Penalty Charge Notices can be sent to the Registered Keeper’s address, which can be requested from the DVLA when:

» a vehicle is driven away before the CEO can hand the Notice to the driver or attach it to the vehicle, (often called a ‘drive-away’);
» a CEO is threatened or fears violence; local authorities use cameras to detect a contravention such as parking or waiting in a bus lane or yellow box junction

If the location is one where parking is normally permitted, Local Authorities in England and Wales operate a Grace Period at the end of the parking period of 10 minutes.


Differential Penalty System

Local Authorities in England and Wales employ Civil Enforcement Officers (CEO)* who patrol and manage parking on street and in local authority car parks. A CEO* can issue a Penalty Charge Notice when they find a vehicle parked in contravention of the Regulations. The amount of the Penalty Charge will vary depending upon where you are parked and how serious the contravention is. For example you will usually pay more for parking on a double yellow line than for over staying your time limit. The maximum penalty charges in London are usually higher than elsewhere too. (*In Scotland they are called Parking Attendants and in Northern Ireland, Traffic Attendants).

In England and Wales Local Authorities operate a Grace Period at the end of the parking period of 10 minutes.


Conditions for issuing a ticket

Before anyone can issue a Penalty Charge it is necessary to gather several pieces of information. These may include the vehicle registration number, make and model of the vehicle and details of the contravention, as well as details of where and when it was parked to prove it wasn’t complying with the rules. Where set observation periods have been agreed or are required by law these will be recorded either by the software in a hand-held computer, which prevents a parking ticket being issued in error, and/or in the notebook of the person issuing the Penalty Charge.

Where parking is restricted but there are exemptions for loading and unloading a CEO will observe the vehicle for a set period of time to make sure that loading or unloading is actually taking place. If it isn’t they may issue a Penalty Charge Notice.


Parking Charge Notices

If private parking companies issue parking tickets they are called a Parking Charge Notice (PCN) (link to further down), also commonly known as a parking ticket.

These are issued by private parking operators who are managing parking on private land, such as supermarkets, hospitals, railway stations and private residential areas.

Private off-street parking is generally governed by the law of contract. If you park in a private off-street area and do not adhere to the rules the operators have advertised on local signs and notices, you may be issued with a Parking Charge Notice. An Approved Operator will give you time to assess the advertised rules, known as terms and conditions, and you are free to leave the parking area if you disagree with them. If you stay then you will have legally agreed to abide by them. A parking ticket is only issued when a vehicle appears not to be complying with the terms and conditions.

Changes were made to the BPA Approved Operator Scheme's Code of Practice in October 2015. This established a Grace Period at the end of the parking period of 10 minutes for BPA AOS members, if the location is one where parking is normally permitted.

In 2012 following the Protection of Freedoms Act introduced keeper liability, the legislation allows for the operator to pursue the keeper of the vehicle if no serviceable name and address is given for the driver. The act only applies to England and Wales.


Who can appeal a ticket?

Only the person with whom the contract has been formed with can appeal a parking ticket. Special exceptions may be considered. Please see our section on How to appeal a parking ticket.


Fixed Penalty Notices

Where local authorities do not employ CEOs*, usually police or traffic wardens still patrol and enforce parking restrictions. They issue Fixed Penalty Notices and these are criminal penalties. These are issued for a wide range of offences in areas such as the more rural parts of England, Wales and Scotland. These tickets are enforced through the criminal justice system, which means appeals are heard in the relevant national or local court.


Excess Charge Notices

Where police and traffic wardens patrol and enforce waiting and loading restrictions, local authorities can still provide parking places on-street and in car parks where they use Excess Charge Notices when rules are broken. 

These notices operate under criminal rather than civil law, so there are different rules for appealing. For information on how to appeal an ECN please click here.



What is the role of the British Parking Association?

The British Parking Association (BPA) is the ONLY professional association that represents the entire parking sector across the UK, representing 710 member organisations in the parking and traffic management profession. Members range from Government organisations, Healthcare Trusts, technology companies and car park operators as well local authorities, train operators and theme parks for example. We provide an Approved Operator Scheme which serves the purpose of an Accredited Trade Association to a fifth of our membership, the private parking companies that manage parking on private land.

Motorists who receive Parking Charge Notices from private parking companies that are members of the BPAs AOS can appeal through POPLA (Parking on Private Land Appeals Service).

The IPC is the equivalent of and a competitor to the BPAs Approved Operator Scheme (AOS).  The IPC has its own appeals service, which is called the Independent Appeals Service (IAS). It is available to motorists who receive parking tickets from IPC Members anywhere in the UK. 

The difference between the BPA’s AOS and the IPC:

The IPC IAS is not transparent as it does not publish an Annual Report declaring the numbers of appeals and nature of decisions, PoPLA does.

Read more on why parking is managed