As the cost of living increases at an exorbitant rate in the UK, and inflation rates reach a 41-year high, even the tiniest of expenses seem like a burden. From buying groceries to paying rent and handling transportation, every penny saved matters.
It appears that many UK councils struggle with their current parking fine system as the example of London borough Newham shows, having to write off £7.2 million in parking debt from uncollected parking tickets.
Parking costs can be extortionate and fines even more so. The UK government appears to realise this and is planning on capping parking fines at £50 down from £100, explaining that many firms and organisations use aggressive debt collection methods and unreasonable fees.
We will therefore examine the best ways to appeal a parking ticket in the UK for motorists and car owners, whether it is issued by a council, the police, Transport for London, or a private enterprise.
What are Parking Fines?
Most councils in the United Kingdom are equipped with the power to enforce parking penalties and fines under the Traffic Management Act of 2004. These penalties are not deemed criminal offences and are often known as ‘parking penalty charges. You cannot be sent to prison for not paying a parking penalty.
Every council has its own set of rules and traffic wardens who issue penalty charge notices. For instance, you might be slapped with a charge for parking on double yellow lines, on zigzag lines, parking in a permit-only zone, and so forth.
Things to Consider Before Contending a Parking Ticket
To begin with, you need to check what type of parking ticket you have.
This pre-emptive knowledge will help determine the appeal process and the chances of success.
There are three main types of official parking tickets:
Penalty Charge Notice (PCN):
These are issued by councils for parking offences on public lands, such as streets or car parks.
Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN):
These are by the police for parking offences on red routes or where there are traffic restrictions.
Excess Charge Notice (ECN):
These are issued by ancillary councils instead of PCNs.
In case you have a parking ticket of any one of the above types, it will have the name of the issuing authority and a reference number. You can also check the official status of your ticket online using the Traffic Penalty Tribunal website.
If your ticket does not have these details, it is likely to be a Parking Charge Notice from a private company.
These are not fines, but invoices for breaching a contract with the landowner or operator of a private car park, such as a supermarket or a hospital.
You can check if the company issuing the fine is a member of an accredited trade association, such as the British Parking Association or the International Parking Community, which has its own codes of practice and appeal procedures.
Top 4 Tips to Gather Evidence for the Parking Fines Appeal
After you have gauged the type of parking fine ticket received, it is time to gather evidence to support your appeal. Some of the steps you can take are:
- Capture photos of your car, the parking spot, the signs, and the road markings
- Gather evidence or tickets that prove your payment or permission to park
- Call witness statements from anyone who was with you or saw what happened
- Provide evidence of any mitigating circumstances that explain why you parked as you did, such as a medical emergency or a breakdown
You should also check if there are any errors or inconsistencies on the ticket, such as the wrong date, time, location, or vehicle registration number. These could invalidate the ticket and make your appeal easier.
Once you have your evidence ready, you need to respond to the ticket within the time limit specified by the issuer. This is usually 14 days for official tickets and 28 days for private ones. If you pay within this period, you may get a discount of up to 50%. However, if you appeal and lose, you may have to pay the full amount.
The Steps to Appeal a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN)
1. Write to the Council with an Informal Appeal
The first step in appealing a penalty charge notice is to write an appeal to the council clearly explaining your disagreement, something that we call an informal appeal. You have 14 days to make an informal appeal from the time you are given the notice, or 21 days if it was relayed via post.
Some of the evidence you must include in your appeal for a better chance at winning are –
- A valid pay and display ticket
- Photos show there were no road markings to restrict parking
- Photos of signs that are hard to see or understand
- A letter from someone who was with you saying what happened – write ‘witness statement’ at the top of this
- A repair note, if your car broke down
- The date the ticket was issued
- Your address
- Your vehicle registration number
- The penalty notice number
In case your appeal is successful, your PCN will be cancelled, and you will not have to pay! However, what to do if your informal appeal is rejected? Let us find out!
2. Opt for a Formal Appeal
If your informal appeal to the tribunal is rejected, you will receive a letter entitled ‘Notice to Owner.’ You have 28 days to make a formal appeal, and the process is absolutely free. However, if you feel the council has a strong reason for objecting to your appeal, it is best to pay as soon as your informal appeal is rejected, as you receive a 50 percent discount then. On the other hand, if your formal appeal is rejected, your penalty will shoot up by 50 percent.
3. Consider an Independent Adjudicator
Lastly, if your formal appeal is also rejected, you will receive a ‘letter of rejection.’ However, you can consider an independent adjudicator and challenge the council’s decision. It is again a free process and you do not have to physically visit the tribunal. You can submit your reasons and evidence in writing.
You have to pay the PCN if the independent tribunal disagrees with your appeal. If you do not pay within 28 days, the parking fine will increase by another 50 percent. Besides, you may face other repercussions such as a decrease in the credit score, liability to pay court costs, and likewise.
You can watch this video of a barrister explaining the full procedure and legal tips for a successful appeal:
The Steps to Appeal an Excess Charge Notice (ECN)
1. Make an Appeal
You have 7 days to make an appeal and it is free of cost. You usually get a 50 percent discount if you pay soon after your informal plea is rejected if the council has strong enough reasons to reject your appeal.
2. If the Appeal is Rejected
In case your ECN appeal is rejected, and you do not pay the fine, the council can take you to the Magistrate’s Court, wherein you can explain the reasons for not paying the fine. Finally, if the court decides against you, your credit might be affected, and you might have to incur court fees, as well!
If you cannot afford to pay your Excess Charge Notice, contact your nearest Citizens Advice.
The Steps to Appeal a Private Parking Charge Notice
To appeal to a private ticket, you need to write to the company that issued it and explain why you think the charge is unfair. You should include copies of your evidence and keep records of all your correspondence.
If your appeal is rejected, you will receive a rejection letter from the company, which will give you another chance to pay or appeal. If you choose to appeal further, you will need to submit your case to an independent appeals service, such as POPLA (Parking on Private Land Appeals) or IAS (Independent Appeals Service). You can do this online or by post.
The appeals service will review your case and make a decision based on the code of practice and the evidence. If they uphold your appeal, the charge will be cancelled, and you will not have to pay anything. If they reject your appeal, you will have to pay the full amount within 14 days.
Watch this video of a barrister explaining what legally qualifies for an appeal and what doesn’t:
Appealing a parking ticket can be a daunting process, but it is worth trying if you think you have been hit with an erroneous or unfair fine. In today’s day and age, when expenses are accelerating by leaps and bounds, it is important to be careful and spend every penny with caution. You have a right to appeal unfair parking fines in the UK and you should make use of it where possible while especially private parking operators can often issue unjustified or wrongful parking tickets.
There is an identified lack of clear and transparent rules, which leaves motorists vulnerable to bad private parking practices such as deliberately poor signage and unfair parking fines, according to the UK government, so make sure you do your research before paying for a parking fine.