Parking rights come in different forms. Local authorities have special powers enabling them to charge for parking in public car parks and on public streets. Different questions arise in relation to parking on private land, including car parks which are run as businesses by private individuals and companies.
The latter work according to the law of contract, and people are bound by those terms and conditions when they drive into a such car park. Parking may be free for a stated period, but the car park owner is still entitled to make a substantial charge for overstaying, in accordance with the Parking Eye case.
More generally, a landowner can give permission to someone else to park on their land. This is regarded as a purely personal matter, between the two people concerned. However, it is also possible for one landowner to acquire a permanent right to park on someone else’s land. A right to park is in the class of rights known to the law as “easements”, including private rights of way and other rights which give one landowner limited use of someone else’s land, nearby.
In order to be valid, the rights concerned must not interfere too greatly with the use of the land by the person who owns it. Parking in an area much larger than the size of a single car doesn’t create a problem. However, parking in the space which is little bigger than the size of a single car did pose a challenge for the courts. What if the area of land concerned is effectively monopolised by parking, saying that there is no significant use left for the owner of the land? But the courts have come to the conclusion that even if the use left to the owner is very small it is still enough, and parking can be a legally valid easement.
Parking rights can be created by means of a deed executed by the two landowners concerned. The deed will deal with the terms and conditions of the right and, in the case of registered land, the parking rights will be shown on the title of the land subject to them, and may be shown on the title of the land which has the benefit of them.
But parking rights can also arise by use over a period of time, a process which the law calls “prescription”. This must be use for 20 years, and it must be “as of right”, meaning that the person parking on land must be acting as though she had the right to do so. The use must not be by permission, or secretly, so that the landowner doesn’t know about it, and has no chance to object. And it must not be by force — which includes use under protest from the landowner. If the landowner puts up a notice saying No parking, then no right to park can be acquired, because the law regards the notice as equivalent to taking physical action to prevent the parking.
In practice, if a case comes to court, it will be for the person doing the parking to show that it was done openly, without objection, and in a way which gave the landowner the opportunity to see that a legal right was being asserted against him. If that can be done, it is for the landowner to show that in fact the parking was taking place with permission, or did not take place for a sufficient length of time.
A private right of way does not carry with it automatically right to park on the road which is subject to the right of way. If a right of way is granted by deed, then the deed could confer that right specifically. In the case of a right of way acquired by prescription is alright to park will only be included if it is impossible to exercise the right of way without parking on the road in question.
A person parking on land without permission will be trespassing, and action can be taken against them by the landowner. The court can grant an injunction against someone who has been parking and lawfully on land. Failure to comply is a contempt of court which can be punished by imprisonment or a fine. However, this is a powerful remedy, which the courts are not obliged to grant; and may in the alternative nearly award a certain amount of compensation. Another alternative is for the court to make a declaration that the parking is unlawful, in the expectation that the trespassing motorist will in future abide by the law and refrain from parking unlawfully.
Wheelclamping has been banned for private landowners under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. However, licensed security firms can carry out “ticketing”: the name and address of the registered keeper cat and then be obtained from the DVLA, and they can be made to pay a fine.
What did the Parking Eye case establish?
How many cars can be parked on land under a right to park?
Where can they be parked?
What action can be taken if a car is parked on land unlawfully?
What does the new Code orPractice say about parking enforcement?
How does the law deal with parking by mobile homes, caravans and motor homes?
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