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Is the Government going to regulate ‘cowboy’ parking enforcement companies?

Yes, it is going to hold private parking enforcement companies to a statutory Code of Practice with accompanying sanctions if they breach it. We do not yet know when it will come into force.

Scope of code of practice and its withdrawal

The code is expected to regulate things like maximum parking charges, signage, grace periods, appeals, the issuing of penalty charges, and complaint handling. Once introduced, the code will apply to private parking companies in England, Scotland and Wales. The powers to create the code come from the Parking (Code of Practice) Act 2019.

The 2019 Act gives the Secretary of State the power to remove a company’s access to the DVLA register of vehicle keepers. This means that operators who fail to meet the standards of the code may lose access to DVLA data, which would prevent them from enforcing unpaid parking charges and therefore effectively unable to do business.

The code of practice was first published on 7 February 2022. It was produced by the Government, with input from a steering group of key industry, Government and consumer stakeholders [PDF]. However, the code was temporarily withdrawn on 7 June 2022, “pending review of the levels of private parking charges and additional fees”.

In April 2023 the Government explained, in a letter to Chair of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee [PDF], that it had withdrawn the code due to legal proceedings issued by some private parking companies against the decisions to introduce new levels of parking charges and to ban additional fees, which the code would have entailed. The letter said that the Government would issue a call for evidence prior to re-laying the code. That call for evidence was issued on 30 July and closed on 8 October 2023.

Timetable for re-introducing the code

In response to a Parliamentary Question in October 2023, the Government said it would respond to the call for evidence, and then publish a further consultation. Following this consultation it is expected that the code will be re-laid: 

The Call for Evidence closed on 8 October and officials are now working through the submissions. The intention is to publish the Impact Assessment together with a consultation on options for handling parking charges and debt recovery fees, to make sure that the consultation is as well informed as it can be.

The Government will publish a response to the Call for Evidence in due course.

Under the original timeframe for the code as published in January 2022, there was to be an implementation period to allow parking operators to align with its requirements before it came into effect. Operators were expected to fully adhere to the new code before 2024, by which time it was expected that a new single appeals service would be operational. Also under that original timeframe, the code would have been assessed within two years of it coming into force before 2024. It is not known how these dates will be affected by the withdrawal of the Code.

Parking (Code of Practice) Act 2019

The Parking (Code of Practice) Act 2019 received Royal Assent on 15 March 2019. It was originally introduced in July 2017 as a Private Members Bill by Sir Greg Knight MP, and was supported by the Government. At the Bill’s second reading, Sir Greg said that:

motorists should have the certainty that when they enter a car park on private land, they are entering into a contract that is reasonable, transparent and involves a consistent process. 

Without the Code, private parking companies remain largely unregulated with little redress for consumers to poor behaviour by private parking companies (see Question 3.1 above). The Act set out to address this issue.

Industry reaction to code

In February 2022, the two main parking trade association bodies, the British Parking Association (BPA) and the International Parking Community (IPC), released statements responding to the draft Code. The BPA stated that they were “deeply concerned by the unintended consequences for motorists, landowners and [the parking] sector” of the Code. Their worries included

  • Lower parking charges reducing the effectiveness of parking enforcement
  • Loss of jobs in the sector
  • Increase in unmanaged parking spaces
  • Decreased footfall in retail spaces due to lack of parking capacity.

The IPC was more positive, stating that “the implementation of the unified Code will finally help us to address the doubt and scepticism that has plagued the industry’s public perception for far too long.”

Are the UK Government and devolved administrations going to ban pavement parking?

  • A ban on pavement parking was introduced in Scotland in November 2023. There are certain exemptions from the ban which have been designated by local authorities.
  • limited ban on pavement parking was introduced in Northern Ireland in October 2023.
  • The Welsh Government has said it intends to consult on pavement parking in 2024.
  • The UK Government has yet to respond to a consultation on pavement parking in England which closed in 2020.

Is it legal to park across a driveway?

It will depend on the individual circumstances.

The two scenarios are summarised below. In the former case it would be something to pursue with the local authority, in the latter with the local police force.

  • If the local authority has parking restrictions in place on the road in question (lines, signs, a residents parking scheme etc.) then a civil offence has been committed. It is an offence to park at a dropped footway where there are parking restrictions in place under section 86 of the Traffic Management Act 2004. Local authorities can ticket vehicles and remove persistent offenders.
  • If there are no local authority restrictions in place then a criminal offence of obstruction may have been committed. Section 99 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 and the Removal and Disposal of Vehicles Regulations 1986 (as amended) grant police officers powers to require the person in charge of a vehicle which is parked illegally, is causing an obstruction to other road users, or has been abandoned, to move that vehicle. The police can remove vehicles which are causing an obstruction. There is no statutory definition of what constitutes an obstruction.

The decision on whether any particular vehicle is causing an obstruction would be a matter for the police officer dealing with the incident. This depends very much on the individual circumstances in any case. The West Yorkshire Police ‘Ask the Police’ page states:

The police/council policy for dealing with such matters may vary between forces/councils. Some police forces may only attend if your car has been blocked in and you cannot get out.

Question 2.7 discusses the definition of ‘obstruction’.

Other topics addressed in this paper

General parking issues

Responsibility for parking policy; devolution; the use of DVLA driver data; bailiffs; abandoned vehicles; wheel clamping.

Local council-controlled parking

Council parking powers; pavement parking, appealing parking tickets.

Parking on private land

Regulation of private parking companies; ‘cowboy’ parking enforcement companies, parking Code of Practice.

Parking for people who have a disability

The Blue Badge scheme; using a Blue Badge in the EU; Brexit, how to get a disabled parking space; what size disabled spaces should be.

Further details on these issues and more can be found in the following Library briefings:

Documents to download

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