INSTITUTE OF PARKING PROFESSIONALS ENCOURAGING EXCELLENCE

The Institute of Parking Professionals is an independent body representing individuals engaged in the UK parking and traffic management sector.

Public advice for parking on private land

This section answers frequently asked questions regarding parking on private land including subjects such as the Protection of Freedoms Act, Keeper Liability and POPLA, the Independent Appeals Service.

You should not use this page if your enquiry is regarding a new or existing complaint. Please email aos@britishparking.co.uk to ensure you receive a prompt response.

To check whether an operator is a member please check this page

This link also provides information on the wheel clamping ban from the Home Office

What is the Protection of Freedoms Act?

The Protection of Freedoms Act is a piece of legislation, passed by the Coalition Government in order to return ‘freedoms’ to the British public that they feel have been eroded or removed over time through the implementation of other legislation. It deals with a wide range of issues including reforms of the Criminal Records Checks and storage of DNA data but the element which relates most to the parking industry is a ban of vehicle clamping and removals on private land without lawful authority.

The Act and its guidance notes can be read on the Government’s legislation website which you can access by clicking here. Click on the button labelled ‘Expand All Explanatory Notes (ENs)’ to see further information.

Why has the Government banned wheel clamping on private land?

Legislation was passed by the previous Government in 2010 with the intention to regulate vehicle clamping and removals on private land. However during the General Election of 2010, the Liberal Party's manifesto was committed to banning wheelclamping on private land. Upon forming the Coalition Government, this commitment was put into practice with the formulation of the Protection of Freedoms Bill towards the end of 2010.

When did this ban take effect?

1st October 2012.

What is ‘lawful authority’?

‘Lawful authority’ applies in cases where specific legislation is in force which allows for vehicles to be immobilised or removed. There are obvious examples such as the public roads, where Road Traffic Regulations could apply, and those statutory authorities that retain the ability to clamp such as the police and DVLA (and their agents).

However, there are also parking areas where particular by-laws have been created that provide for parking enforcement. A good example of this is some railway station car parks. Under the Railways Act 2005, the Secretary of State made Railway by-laws which allow for vehicles to be immobilised or removed in certain circumstances.

There are many other organisations and public bodies which can establish ‘lawful authority’ through Acts of Parliament and local by-laws and these include airports, ports and harbours, strategic river crossings as well as some common land. Any terms and conditions imposed by a landowner do not normally in themselves establish lawful authority.

How do I know whether I could be clamped or not?

In general, clamping or removal of a vehicle without lawful authority will be prohibited in England and Wales. However on entering any car park, you should make yourself aware of any parking terms and conditions that will be displayed on signs. You may need to purchase a pay and display ticket or, if it is free parking, it may have a time limit that you must adhere to. Each car park can have different conditions attached so it is imperative to always check signage

What should I do if my car is clamped or towed away after the 1st October?

Firstly you should check whether the  site operates under by-laws as clamping will still be allowed in some places (see below). This should be made clear on signs in the car park.  If it is,  you should contact the operator. If it is simply a piece of private land, you should contact the local police service as it will be a criminal offence to clamp or remove a vehicle without lawful authority.

Where is clamping still legal?

Clamping is still legal on land where other measures have been specifically created to regulate parking. These will include but are not limited to the following:

  • Public roads
  • Some railway station car parks
  • Airport car parks
  • Ports and harbours
  • River crossings

What should I do if my car is clamped or towed between now and when the Act is effective?

Until the 1st October you will still have to pay to have the clamp removed. Always ask for the Security Industry Authority (SIA) licence number of the operative

What will happen to companies who continue to clamp or tow vehicles away after the Act is effective?

Unless they are acting under ‘lawful authority’ companies that clamp or tow from the 1st October 2012 will be in breach of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 and  liable to prosecution and upon conviction a substantial fine.

What should I do if I need to have a car removed from my property?

If you find that you must have a vehicle removed from your land after 1st October 2012, and you do not have ‘lawful authority’, you must contact the authorities to remove the vehicle. “‘Lawful authority’ will apply in cases where specific legislation is in force which allows for vehicles to be immobilised, moved or have their movement restricted.

There are obvious examples, such as the public roads, where Road Traffic Regulations authorise local authorities and the police to clamp or tow vehicles. Other statutory authorities also retain the ability to clamp, such as the DVLA and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (and their agents) where vehicles are not road worthy or have not had their vehicle tax paid. In addition, there are also parking areas where particular local laws (called bye-laws) have been created that provide for parking enforcement.

A good example of this is some railway station car parks. Under the Transport Act 2000, bye-laws were made which allow for vehicles in some railway station car parks to be immobilised or removed.

There are many other organisations and public bodies which have ‘lawful authority’ to immobilise, move or restrict vehicles through legislation such as Acts of Parliament and local bye-laws. These include bodies which exercise control at airports, ports and harbours, strategic river crossings and some common land.

Owners of private car parks cannot gain ‘lawful authority’ to clamp or tow a vehicle by obtaining the driver’s consent to doing so. However, they can obtain lawful authority to restrict vehicles by the use of fixed barriers, as are often used at the entry and exit points of car parks, if they have the driver’s consent. This consent could be provided by the driver choosing to park in the car park where the use of the barriers has been made reasonably clear.

If you find that authorities are not responding to requests to remove vehicles, particularly in cases where they may be blocking access or causing danger to others, you should inform your local MP. Please also inform the BPA as we will be informing the government if this becomes a persistent problem. 

If a vehicle has been abandoned on your land, the process is different from enforcement of a vehicle that is left on private land. The Keep Britain Tidy Campaign has information about dealing with abandoned vehicles, which can be found by accessing this link: http://www.keepbritaintidy.org/KeyIssues/AbandonedVehicles/Default.aspx 

Will this Act tackle the problem of ‘cowboy clampers’?

No! It is still possible for so-called ‘rogue ticketers’ to operate throughout the UK, causing distress to motorists and small businesses alike. To combat ‘rogue ticketing’, we believe that those who undertake parking enforcement on private land should be required to be a member of an Accredited Trade Association and therefore subscribe to the POPLA Independent Appeals Service.

It is possible that some ‘cowboy clampers’ will turn to ticketing instead. However, companies who wish to enforce using tickets will need to be members of an Accredited Trade Association and adhere to a Code of Practice, so that they can access the DVLA database for keeper details. ‘Cowboy ticketers’, therefore, will still be able to give out parking tickets but they will not be able to pursue those tickets by applying to DVLA for the registered keeper’s details.

We want to end rogue ticketing and believe that Government should also close opportunities for ‘rogue ticketing’ that might arise when clamping without lawful authority is banned in England and Wales.

If you are the victim of ‘cowboy ticketers’ and are therefore not able to take advantage of the POPLA Independent Appeals Service, please write to your MP and let us know too. Your experience will be valuable as we are monitoring the impact that cowboy ticketers have on the public.

I parked on private land with owner's permission but received a ticket. I have done this for months without having to display a permit (they don't use them). Can the owner simply phone the parking company to explain the circumstances and cancel the ticket?

Where a landowner employs an agent to undertake parking management or enforcement on their behalf the relationship between them and the nature of the services provided is entirely a matter for them. They can decide when and how to enforce and if enforcement action is taken they are free to decide whether to pursue it or not and to determine whether they will agree with any mitigation put forward

How will the Independant Appeals Service differentiate when a Notice to Keeper is issued to a driver in Scotland where the Freedoms Act wiil not apply?

Each operator will be required to have processes in place to differentiate the origin of the parking ticket. If a Notice to Keeper is issued to a driver under the terms of PoFA, it will not be lawful. However that driver will also not have the privilege of using the independent appeals service.

How long can a clamped vehicle park on a private road before being towed away?

It is dependent upon the wishes of the land owner. The Code currently states that if a vehicle is clamped and then removed within 3 hours, only the removal is payable. In any event, unless there is lawful authority present, all clamping and removal will be illegal after 1st October 2012

If a vehicle breaks down on a privately managed motorway service station car park & over runs the 2 hours free parking whilst RAC roadside assistance make the vehicle safe to drive. Would the car park operator be within their rights to serve a parking charge notice?

Where a landowner employs an agent to undertake parking management or enforcement on their behalf the relationship between them and the nature of the services provided is entirely a matter for them. They can decide when and how to enforce and if enforcement action is taken they are free to decide whether to pursue it or not and to determine whether they will agree with any mitigation put forward.

Your members currently use trespass law in order to justify their charges. Since the law of trespass only applies to entering land "without permission" will the BPA now take steps to curb their members from issuing so called penalty charge notices to service vehicles who have permission to attend an address?

Where a landowner employs an agent to undertake parking management or enforcement on their behalf the relationship between them and the nature of the services provided is entirely a matter for them. They can decide when and how to enforce and if enforcement action is taken they are free to decide whether to pursue it or not and to determine whether they will agree with any mitigation put forward.

If I received a parking ticket on private land could they clamp or tow my vehicle away from outside my house if I didn’t pay the ticket?

It depends. If the company who issued the parking ticket obtained a Court Order then the normal arrangements for enforcement would apply and this might include bailiff action. Bailiffs acting under a court warrant are entitled to seize goods.

My private drive way is next to a pay and display council car park and people keep parking in my space as opposed to paying for a ticket. How can I stop this?

Private land is private land; the Protection of Freedoms Act makes no distinctions. If, on occasions, the same vehicle continues to do this then, as an individual landowner, you would still be able to contact DVLA to obtain details of the registered keeper and undertake a private enforcement action in accordance with your statutory rights for trespass. You may need to employ the services of an Approved Operator to assist if it is a regular occurrence, but with a multitude of vehicles. Alternatively you may have to resort to physical measures to restrict access to your driveway.

I have been clamped by an operator who is not an AOS member. How do the rules apply now?

The AOS Code of Practice only applies to members of the BPA and its Approved Operator Scheme. Clamping and removal of vehicles parked on private land is a lawful activity and remains so until 1 October 2012. It is regulated using the law of contract or trespass.

We are a Football Supporters Club and have been given permission from a local company to use their forecourt for parking on match days. The forecourt is in a private road leading to the football ground. We will issue all drivers parking with us with notice of a couple of requirements, but is there any rule to stop us from doing this?

If you are issuing polite warning notices asking people to refrain or giving them advice for the future and you have no interest in any enforcement action then it is unlikely that you would be committing any offence. If you need to undertake any kind of enforcement action against the driver of the vehicle then in most cases you would need to contact the DVLA to establish details enabling you to contact the registered keeper. If you do this routinely the DVLA will consider you to be managing parking and require you to become a member of an Accredited Trade Association. In practice this means the BPA and its Approved Operator Scheme.

What is an Accredited Trade Association (ATA)?

An ATA, in this case, is an organisation accredited by the DVLA on behalf of the Government and whose members request data from the DVLA registers in the course of their business. Members of an ATA MUST comply with certain rules and work to a Code of Practice which has been approved by the DVLA.

Is it possible to be a member of the AOS and not the appeals service if a company does not require keeper liability but still needs access to DVLA enquiries?

No: it is a requirement of AOS membership that operators are members of the appeals service. 

Can I be charged for dropping someone off in a car park and not paying and displaying? The engine was running at all times but I did not leave the car and I was not issued with a ticket.

There is no recognised definition of parking, but simply having the engine running and not leaving the vehicle does not absolve one of abiding by the parking terms and conditions. If the car park was monitored by an ANPR system, it is likely that a photograph was taken of the vehicle entering the site. A time period is given to allow drivers to leave if they do not wish to park, but then if a ticket is not purchased, and the vehicle is photographed leaving after the expiry of that ‘grace period’, a parking charge notice will be posted to the keeper of the vehicle.

I manage hospital parking where we currently clamp after warnings, it is private property - does the ban also apply here?

Yes, the ban applies to all private property where legislation for parking does not exist

Does the Independent Appeals Service - POPLA apply to Scotland?

No, The Protection of Freedoms Act has not been taken up by the Scottish Government, and so POPLA will not be offered in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

If a ticket gets paid between appeal and going to POPLA, will it still be heard?

That depends on whether POPLA are told. If they do not know, then they cannot stop the process. If the charge is paid, we would suggest that the operator notifies POPLA, quoting the relevant 10 digit number. For further information visit the POPLA website: www.popla.org.uk

We are considering putting a chain across our village hall car park to stop non-hall users parking there. Are we entitled to lock the chain with offending vehicles inside the car park (having suggested we may do this on a sign at the entrance as a deterrent) or does this fall under similar legislation as clamping?

Under the terms of the Protection of Freedoms Act, paragraph 54.3 states:

‘But, where the restriction of the movement of the vehicle is by means of a fixed barrier, or the barrier was present (whether or not lowered into place or otherwise restricting movement) when the vehicle was parked, any express or implied consent (whether or not legally binding) of the driver of the vehicle to the restriction is, for the purposes of subsection (1), lawful authority for the restriction.’

This means that if you have a permanent gate or barrier, you can use it to restrict movement – provided you have signs in place to ensure that the driver is aware of when the car park will be blocked.

We would strongly suggest that you obtain legal advice though, particularly as to whether a chain is considered to be a ‘fixed barrier’.

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Contact British Parking Association

British Parking Association T: 01444 447 300
Stuart House, 41-43 Perrymount Road F: 01444 454 105
Haywards Heath, West Sussex, RH16 3BN E: info@britishparking.co.uk