The frustration of not being able to find a parking space is all too familiar for motorists. So, when desperate times call for desperate measures, are you actually parking within the law? This section takes a closer look at the laws surrounding parking.
In the UK, there’s an almost bewildering range of signage that dictates where we can and cannot park. In fact, sometimes it seems like there isn’t that much of a difference between the various lines and signs we see every day. In this tab we offer:
No parking at any time of day
Restricted parking during certain times of day: check the accompanying sign
In addition to parking restriction, loading is not permitted
In addition to parking restriction, loading is not permitted between times indicated by sign
No parking at any time, except to drop off passengers
No parking, loading or boarding at any time
No parking, loading or boarding during times indicated by sign
No parking in the clearway zone between the times indicated
No parking at any time
Emergency parking only
No parking during period of operation
No parking at any time
No parking without a valid Blue Badge
No parking at any time
No parking at any time (though the illegality of any of these may depend on the local authority)
Assume that it is not legal to park
Some motorists may be surprised to hear that parking on the pavement – even partial parking – is actually in contravention of the Highway Code. Section 244 specifically prohibits pavement parking in London, but essentially suggests a blanket ban – ‘unless signs permit it’. Enforcement of this section of the code varies from council to council, however: the Highway Code is ultimately a guide book rather than a document describing traffic law.
It’s important to be a considerate motorist, and for your own safety and the safety of other people, we do not recommend pavement parking. Parking on pavements in areas with high pedestrian traffic is especially problematic: you’re forcing pedestrians onto busy roads, and you are putting your passengers in danger also.
Similar to the above, the Highway Code describes parking in front of a dropped kerb used for a driveway as a violation. Legally, the Highway Code itself doesn’t necessarily have any weight in the matter, but under The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, section 103, you may be towed or fined for causing an obstruction.
In the UK, the Blue Badge scheme allows people with severe walking disabilities, the registered blind and those with severe upper body disabilities, to park more freely through usually restricted zones. Applications for blue badges are handled by Gov.uk and your local authority. Blue Badge holders can park:
However, it must be noted that the Blue Badge applies to the holder rather than their vehicle: the badge must be displayed at all times, but it cannot be used by carers if the holder is not present. Other limits to the Blue Badge scheme are detailed in our parking myths section.
In a country that is increasingly urbanised, with denser populations and more cars, parking has become a problem. The lucky few who have a driveway may not even have enough space for every vehicle in the family, and everybody else has to make do with on-street parking. To deter (and monetise) vehicle ownership in many UK cities, local governments have created parking zones, requiring residents, visitors and local businesses to apply for permits.
These permits allow for parking in bays within the applicable zone. There may be concessions for businesses, carers and electric vehicles, but everyone else without the relevant permit will find themselves unable to park in that zone, liable to face a fine if caught by a local traffic warden. The alternative is to park your vehicle in a nearby car park, or there may be a ‘pay and display’ machine for certain permitted bays, or else use public transport. For information about parking zones in your city, find your local council via the Gov.uk website.
In this section, we examine some commonly held beliefs about parking law in the UK:
It is often widely assumed that bank holidays mean free access to resident’s bays and streets with yellow lines. Certain councils have set this precedent and it is a common assumption that parking enforcement officers aren’t working on bank holidays. In reality, many councils enforce bank holiday parking, sometimes with staff and sometimes with automated systems. Always check with the local council before you travel.
Private car park owners cannot issue fines, though the document you receive will often be dressed up and worded in such a way that they look like fines. They can in fact only issue invoices, essentially for breach of contract.
This doesn’t mean that private car park owners can’t charge you for parking on their land, or attempt to reclaim money if you fail to pay. It does mean, however, that they cannot legitimately demand money and expect payment through the issuing of the notice alone: contract law means they have to take you to court first.
In practice, private car park owners sometimes fail to bring matters to court, and even when they do their ‘contracts’ are often unenforceable: there is allegedly a high success rate for people who challenge their tickets. We do not endorse this course of action.
It became illegal to clamp, tow or block in vehicles on private land in October 2012, specifically to combat illegal acts by private car park owners. If your vehicle is clamped in such circumstances, you have the right to call the police.
Some motorists assume that yellow line restrictions are the same everywhere. For instance, they may believe that it’s legal to park on a single yellow after 6pm – a common time for councils to remove the restriction. However, the rules do vary and you should always check the accompanying sign – there are plenty of roads that restrict parking later or earlier than roads you may be familiar with.
Parking rules are relaxed for Blue Badge holders, but they must still observe a number of key restrictions:
Parking enforcement is sometimes said to have a ‘three minute amnesty’ on ticket expiry – the idea being that a warden’s watch could easily be a few minutes out. Again, this is one of those things that is technically true in some jurisdictions, but isn’t something that you should depend on. Consider: