I parked my car in a store’s car park rather than a council-run facility. I thought that parking was free for customers, but when I returned I found that there was a ticket on my windscreen. As it’s the shop’s car park, not the council’s, do I have to pay?
Derek Millard-Smith, partner, JMW Solicitors, says: Parking charge notices (PCNs) that are issued on private land are still enforceable under the law of contract, just as they are in council-owned ones. When you use any car park, you are agreeing to be bound by the terms and conditions of the site and failure to do so is a breach of the parking contract, which is enforceable in law. You can be pursued for the debt at court if this is not paid. Therefore, do not simply ignore the ticket.
If you accept that you haven’t complied with the terms and conditions, then you should pay the charge promptly, before the cost increases. However, you have mentioned that you believed that car parking was free to customers of the shop.
If parking should have been free to customers, or it was not made clear to you that there was a charge through appropriate signage, then you can appeal the PCN to the parking company, explaining why you dispute the charge. You should include evidence, such as receipts confirming use of the shop on that day, confirmation from the shop that parking is free for customers and/or photographs of any signs.
Details of how to appeal the charge will be available on the PCN. There is usually a deadline for making an appeal, so make sure that you respond within the time frame if you wish to do so.
If your appeal is not accepted by the parking company, then there is also a further right of appeal to POPLA (Parking on Private Land Appeals, popla.co.uk). This independent appeals service will provide a final decision on your appeal.
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Private land and car parks provided on private land are owned and must be maintained by someone. As such, there is a cost to parking there and measures are often needed to prevent people other than those for whom it is intended from parking there.
A good example of this, although frustrating for genuine visitors, is hospital car parks located near city centres. When they weren’t managed, people would park there and walk into town, clogging up the car park. Hospital car-park charges are in some cases the unfortunate result of drivers’ selfish behaviour.
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