Your diary may or may not have included details of Parkex – Europe’s biggest parking exhibition – currently taking place in London.
But it was certainly part of transport minister Norman Baker’s agenda and it was at the Olympia venue that the RAC Foundation asked him just what provision he would be making for an appeals system for motorists wanting to challenge ‘questionable’ parking tickets issued on private land.
On the face of it his response was reassuring. He said an appeals process – free to access for motorists – was being put in place by the British Parking Association (BPA) as a result of changes to the law included in the Protection of Freedoms Bill which is nearing the end of its Parliamentary passage.
The BPA has not yet revealed the final structure of the appeals process – it could be similar to that of the services that adjudicate appeals from motorists disputing tickets issued by local authorities on the public highway – but whatever means is decided on, the Government wants the service running by October, when the Protection of Freedoms Act will come into force.
However, the Government has not made things easy for the BPA or for motorists. First of all, the Government refuses to make membership of the BPA, or any other similar accredited trade association (ATA), compulsory for anyone running a private car park. The parking operators who voluntarily join a trade association are likely to be the good guys. Those who decline are the most likely to cause drivers problems.
Yet the actions of those operators remaining outside an ATA umbrella could still have been constrained if they were also required to offer access to an appeals service – perhaps by paying to use the BPA system on a case-by-case basis. Unfortunately there is no such requirement.
Ministers believe ‘rogue’ operators will effectively be forced to join an ATA because this is the only way they can get electronic access to drivers’ details from the DVLA to pursue the tickets they have issued that go unpaid. This is seriously doubted since more than 30% of tickets left on windscreens are paid without the need to get drivers’ details. So what motorists seem likely to be left with is a muddle.
For decades drivers have struggled to understand a confused parking landscape. Why should a motorist need to know whether or not a parking space has been set up under a Traffic Regulation Order and whether or not it is being enforced under the Traffic Management Act 2004, or whether it is on private land and is being enforced under Contract Law? He, or she, just wants to park.
The Government fully understands how much motorists put into the Chancellor’s chest. It is a pity it doesn’t better appreciate that no one takes a car anywhere without parking it, and that parking should be appropriately regulated – wherever it takes place.