New parking law changes will 'protect car park users' with reduced fines and grace periods

After a Government decision, private car parks will have to display prices more clearly, introduce a fairer system of appeals and give drivers a grace period for lateness. The crackdown comes after thousands of drivers criticised private car parking operators for making it difficult to appeal fines and tickets regardless of the circumstances.

Operators will be required to fully adhere to the new Code by the end of 2023, by which time the new single appeals service is expected to be operational.

Steve Double, MP for St Austell and Newquay, said that complaints about private parking companies are frequently seen in his Parliamentary email inbox.

He said the actions of these companies “can blight the lives of local residents while also running the experience of visitors to Cornwall”.

Mr Double added: “There are many excellent locally run private car parks, but these bad apples can damage the industry’s reputation.

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“I have long campaigned for a fairer and better regulated set of rules for users of private car parks, having sat on the Bill Committee for this legislation as it came through Parliament and spoken up on behalf of the people who have contacted me in the past.”

“The Private Parking Code of Conduct realises these ambitions, creates a fair and level playing field for the industry, and will protect private car park users from the poor behaviour we have seen in the past,” he told Cornwall Live.

Between April and June 2021, almost two million parking tickets were issued to drivers by private parking firms.

Those businesses have increased by almost two-thirds in the last five years.

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As part of the new Private Parking Code of Practice, most fines for users of private car parks will be capped at £50 – down from £100 currently.

Higher financial consequences will remain for more serious breaches, such as parking in Blue Badge spaces.

As with most penalty charge notices (PCNs), motorists will get a 50 percent discount if they pay the fine within 14 days.

Operators which do not follow the rules could be barred from collecting fines from motorists.

AA president Edmund King also supported the law change, adding: “For too long, those caught by private parking firms simply pay the charge to get rid of it.

“Thankfully these days are numbered.

“Drivers should feel confident that having a single Code of Practice and a new Appeals Charter will give them confidence to appeal and be properly heard.”

It is hoped that the plans will bring private parking firms more into line with council-operated car parks.

It will also mean that excessive debt collection fees for late tickets will be banned, with some fines reaching as high as £70.

Parking firms will have to more clearly display pricing and terms and conditions of the car park, with motorists being given a 10-minute grace period before they can be issued a late fine.

A further five-minute “cooling off period” will be introduced in which a motorist can change their mind about parking.

A spokesperson for the RAC said: “This will undoubtedly make drivers’ experience of using private car parks fairer while at the same time force rogue operators to clean up their acts once and for all.”

The RAC had been campaigning for parking law changes for many years, saying the law change will “end the sharp practices in the private parking sector”.