Britain's Parking Nightmares

Forgetting to carry cash for parking meters, not knowing all the T’s & C’s for car parks, coming back to your car to find a yellow sticker waiting for you on the windscreen… if you drive a car in the UK, chances are you are familiar with all of these scenarios. 

We Brits own more than 40 million cars and finding somewhere to park them is proving problematic. It can lead to disputes over spaces on both the streets we live in… and those we shop in. Reporter Adam Shaw investigates the challenges consumers are experiencing with parking across the country and how local communities and cities are dealing with it in the midst of both the climate change & cost of living crises.

More people are buying more cars and more people own more than one car. And our streets were never designed for this kind of car ownership.- KELVIN REYNOLDS, British Parking Association

Parking is also an industry worth a lot of money, with local authorities raking in almost £1.8 billion from parking charges in one year alone.Parking fees and fines produced a collective surplus of £756m last year for 353 local councils in England and the private parking industry can be very lucrative. British workers could be losing over 10% of their annual salary parking their cars near their workplace and it’s estimated that UK drivers pay £1.2bn annually in parking fines. 

A & E nurse Emma from Essex was recently issued with two fixed penalty notices in one week, despite paying £12.90 to park for the day, after the car park outside her work introduced a maximum stay of 12 hours. She’s now facing £80 worth of fines.

The 12 hour parking rule is not working for us.13 to 14 hours, we're working in this highly stressful environment. And then when we come out to the car park to see a ticket on our car, it is just the most demoralising thing to see… We're trying to retain staff at the moment. if they’re slapping  tickets on nurses cars, Where is the incentive for a nurse to come back and do that extra shift?- EMMA, A&E Senior Sister

Havering Council, who run the car park told Tonight:

‘The car park in question does have a 12 hour limit, which we understand can be difficult for some hospital staff. We are currently speaking with the hospital to see what options we can put in place to avoid this issue in future. The car park is used by hospital staff, including nurses, as well as patients and visitors, so at present, we have no way of knowing which vehicles belong to staff.’

Tonight also meets James, a software developer from Manchester, who is a regular patient at Wythenshawe hospital. James suffers from Crohn's disease and has been an outpatient at the hospital for years. When he was parking at nearby Floats Road car park he tried to pay at the parking meter but the pay-by-card option wasn’t working. James wasn't carrying change at the time so then resorted to trying out one of the parking apps, which also wasn’t working. By that time James had been in the carpark just over the 10 minute grace period, by 1 minute 38 seconds, and left to park elsewhere, having been unable to pay. A few months later James was then sent a letter with a fine for going over this time. Over the past year James has been challenging the private parking company in court over the fine.  

It’s been going on around ten months. It just hangs over you like a cloud. Because you're waiting for that court date- JAMES, Hospital patient

Last week in court the judge ruled in favour of the private parking company -Vehicle Control Services- applying land law to reach a decision. James has now been ordered to pay £212.

Vehicle Control Services told Tonight:

‘The signage clearly states that you must pay within 10 minutes of entering and that no other motorists had issues with paying on that day and he didn’t call the helpline. We offered every opportunity to resolve the matter out of court and make no apologies for informing him of the options as well as the potential consequences. To date we await settlement of the outstanding debt’

Dealing with a parking fine can often be a stressful and confusing experience for motorists, but 29 year old Sam from Redcar has successfully challenged and won 150 cases related to parking fines for friends & family. He has managed to win many appeals on the basis that the parking firms haven't written to the car owner within the 14 day legal requirement.

One of the people Sam helped was his grandad George, who whilst terminally ill was handed a fine for not displaying a disabled badge in a carpark. It took almost 4 years for the case to be rectified but eventually it was- in his grandad’s favour. In that time George sadly passed away, but Sam sees the case as one little win for the consumer.

So what is being done to try to tackle the nation’s parking problem? In February 2022 the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities announced plans to launch a parking code of practice. However, a few months later in June the plans were then withdrawn. They told Tonight:

‘We’re working with industry and consumer groups to introduce the Code as quickly as possible’

Looking to the future, Kelvin Reynolds from the British Parking Association (BPA) thinks there is reason to be optimistic, simply because of the way our habits are set to change:

Less people are buying cars now. More people are renting cars often by the hour. And things like car clubs are springing up around the country. Car clubs mean the vehicles aren't parked quite so often because they are in use more of the day doing something useful.- KELVIN REYNOLDS,British Parking Association

But whilst a decrease in car ownership and better public transport will undoubtedly help our parking issues, the move towards this won’t happen overnight, so it seems there won’t be a quick solution to Britain’s parking nightmares…