Byelaw parking tickets

Airports, sea ports, and train stations often have byelaws which allow for the issuance of parking tickets (e.g. a Penalty Charge Notice or Fixed Penalty Notice). A breach of a byelaw is a criminal offence which would be prosecuted in a magistrates court. This differs from the majority of private parking charges which are based on contract law and would ultimately be enforced in a civil court, typically as a small claim.

The operators of such sites (such as airport authorities) frequently subcontract their traffic management to private parking companies, such as Vehicle Control Services (VCS) or UK Parking Patrol Office (UKPPO). The intention is that the income from parking charges is split between the landowner and the parking company.

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The issue the landowner faces is that should the ticket go unpaid, the only way of enforcing a byelaw breach is via the magistrates court. Should the court enforce it, then the penalty charge would be paid to the court, not the landowner and parking company meaning enforcement would not be profitable to them.

Further complicating matters is the fact that private parking companies must be a member of an Approved Operator Scheme (AOS) to retrieve keeper data from the DVLA. Without keeper data, they do not know who to pursue to enforce the parking tickets. Membership of an AOS requires the parking company to comply with all aspects of the Code of Practice which assume the tickets to be contract-based meaning that some aspects of the code aren’t appropriate.

For example, AOSs require an independent appeals service to be provided as a second stage appeal if the first stage appeal to the parking company gets rejected. The BPAs AOS, Parking on Private Land Appeals (POPLA), have previously stated, quite rightly, that they will not assess byelaw-based appeals. As such, if a second stage appeal cannot be provided, the parking company are in breach of the Code of Practice and can be reported to the relevant authorities (e.g. DVLA, Trading Standards). Systematic or deliberate breaches of the Code of Practice could result in the parking company having its access to DVLA data removed.

Another headache for parking companies operating such schemes is that of keeper liability. Schedule 4 of The Protection of Freedoms Act (PoFA) allows vehicle keepers to be held liable for unpaid parking charges should the identity of the driver not be disclosed and they meet certain conditions. However, the keeper liability only applies to ‘relevant land’, which excludes highways, parking places operated by a traffic authority, or where parking is covered by statutory control. In other words, on land covered by byelaws, keeper liability cannot be enforced. Should a parking company request keeper data from the DVLA knowing that keeper liability is not applicable, it is arguable that they had no reasonable cause and should be reported to the relevant authority (e.g. DVLA, Information Commissioners Office).

The final headache is whether byelaws on roads around airports are even valid anyway! The Road Traffic Act 1998 defines a road as any highway or other road to which the public has access; it makes no distinction between private and public ownership. Since the roads are accessible by the public, they would be covered by the Road Traffic Act. The Airports Act 1986 explicitly states that byelaws do not apply on airport roads to which the road traffic enactments apply. Only the Police have powers to act on breaches of the Road Traffic Act; not private parking companies.

As should be clear by now, the situation for private parking companies enforcing parking tickets on land subject to byelaws is very messy. As such, should you receive such a ticket, we would recommend you do your reseach into the specific site and don’t be bullied into paying; these can be fought! Since each set of byelaws is different we would recommend you do you research using forums such as Pepipoo to understand the specific issues at that site.

Finally, here’s a video made by a forum regular to point out some of the issues at Newcastle airport.

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