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The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 makes local authorities the main bodies responsible for controlling on and off-street parking in England, Wales and Scotland. In Northern Ireland the Roads Service is responsible for controlling on and off-street parking under the Roads (Restriction on Waiting) Order (Northern Ireland) 1982 and the On-Street Parking (Northern Ireland) Order 2000, with the enforcement being contracted out to NSL services group.

On-street parking

Local authorities, and in Northern Ireland, the Roads Service, can designate:

  • Where vehicles can park
  • What kind of vehicles can park
  • How long vehicles can park for

The motorist is made aware of these limits and conditions by means of road markings and signposts. In addition, the parking meters or ticket machines that have notices indicating the times when it is possible to park without a permit.

Parking bays with meters are a widespread means of controlling parking on the street. If you park on a metered bay, you should immediately pay for the period of time you wish to park there. If this period exceeds the maximum allowable time, you should not return and feed the meter or you will be fined. Some local authorities have ticket machines near a number of bays instead of meters. The tickets specify the period of parking purchased and must be displayed on the windscreen of the parked car.

Local authorities or the Roads Service may also indicate 'no waiting', 'no parking' and 'no loading' areas by means of prominent signs and yellow or red lines alongside the carriageway. Double lines mean that the motorist is not allowed to wait or park at any time on this part of the road. Single yellow lines must be accompanied by a plate indicating when it is possible to park on that part of the road. Red lines are mainly restricted to routes in London where motorists are not even allowed to stop at any time.

Loading restrictions are indicated by yellow marks across the kerb and by signs in the vicinity. Unless there are no loading signs and markings, it is possible unload and load in a restricted waiting area. It will be for the driver to prove that loading was actually taking place.

The Road Traffic Act and the Road Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order make it an offence:

  • For someone to allow a vehicle to be placed in such a position or in such condition or in such circumstances as to involve a danger of injury to other persons using the road
  • For someone to wilfully obstruct the free passage along the highway

These catch-all provisions prevent motorists from parking their vehicle when to do so will cause an obstruction or a danger to other road users whether or not there are yellow lines or warning signs. The obstruction must be wilful in nature. The offence of leaving a vehicle in a dangerous position is treated very seriously and may result in a fine of up to £1000, and endorsement of up to three penalty points and even disqualification.

Disabled persons

Local authorities or the Roads Service issue blue badges for vehicles driven by or used for the carriage of disabled persons. The users of these vehicles must display these badges in order to be able to override any of the waiting and parking restrictions that apply to other drivers. It is an offence for someone who is not entitled to use a disabled person's badge. The offender may be fined up to £1000 plus any additional penalties for related parking offences.

Off- street parking

Near shopping malls and throughout many town centres there are a number of parking facilities, which are provided by the Local Authority or the Roads Service itself and by private companies licensed by the Local Authority or Roads Service.

Parking tickets

Parking tickets are issued by Local Authorities or by the Central Ticket Office in England and Wales or by Traffic Wardens working for the National Car Parks Services Ltd in Northern Ireland. This is an alternative to a court summons if a parking offence has been committed. The parking ticket is a fixed penalty charge notice. It is either handed to the owner or fixed to the vehicle. The ticket will indicate the penalty payable and the grounds on which the notice was issued. It will state that the amount must be paid within a fixed period (usually 28 days); otherwise the fee will be increased by 100% for late payment.

If you receive a parking ticket you have the following options:

  • Pay the penalty within the period (usually 28 days)
  • Contest the ticket. The ticket will have directions on how to do this. This may result in a hearing before a magistrate or appeal to the local authority adjudicator to dispute the offence. You must be very sure of your grounds before you do this because if you do not prove that the ticket was wrongly issued you will end up having to pay more;
  • Do nothing. In this case the authority or the police will send you a further notice requesting the higher payment. If this notice is also ignored, the court may be informed and the penalty will be registered with the court. The court will try to recover the money under an 'enforcement order' by 'sending in the bailiffs' who will seize your goods if you do not pay.

For more information, see our section on Parking and Speeding tickets.

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