Recent government statistics show that private parking firms issued 1.95 million parking charge notices to drivers on sites such as shopping centres, leisure facilities and motorway service areas.
The figures, obtained by the RAC Foundation, found 159 companies obtained records from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in order to chase car owners for alleged infringements in private car parks between April and June. That is up 64% from 97 during the same period in 2016.
The increase in the number of issued parking charge notices (PCNs) causes a stir amongst critics. But the effective and lawful enforcement of parking restrictions must be respected.
From parking incorrectly and not paying the necessary tariff, to wrongly parking in a disabled bay, car parking abuse is a legitimate issue that must be tackled and taken seriously.
Whilst the British Parking Association (BPA) and International Parking Community (IPC) each have an individual Code of Practice designed to control and enforce parking on private land and car parks, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has consulted on its own measures to standardise the regulation of the private parking industry, proposing the introduction of a single, omnipresent Code of Practice.
Although the initiatives recognise the problem, there are growing concerns over the code, and whether the suggested charges will be sufficient enough to effectively deter negative behaviour and ensure the compliance of the public.
With proposed PCNs as little as £25 (if paid within 14 days), some may opt to take the risk and commit the parking offence, rather than park fairly as a legitimate user of the car park. It must be argued, therefore, that higher appropriate charges are required at times in order to successfully mitigate the issue and encourage positive behaviour.
As the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee continues formal discussions surrounding the proposed framework, the suggestion of more significant PCNs and the overall concept of private parking enforcement has faced widespread scrutiny from British media too.
Operators are often sensationalised and categorised as unjust ‘cowboys’, which is entirely untrue. There is no denying the number of PCNs has increased; but whilst many are quick to shoot the messenger, this rise is due to a vast range of factors – none of which are a result of unethical management.
The growing use of advanced technology has ultimately enabled a more efficient and reliable method of enforcement, which has in turn contributed to an increase in the number of recorded offences. Today, technology usage removes the need to ‘affix’ a charge notice to the vehicle and, instead, lets firms access DVLA data to serve notice through the post. This process uses the statutory framework, enabling liability to be passed to the vehicle keeper rather than waiting for the driver to challenge or pay the PCN.
Whilst the emotions surrounding fines and penalties will inevitably be heightened when they are received, the offence itself cannot be brushed aside and people need to be made aware of their commitments and obligations when committing an offence in a privately run car park.
Although PCNs are rarely received with thanks, they are an undoubtedly effective method that can be used to educate the public, deter irresponsible behaviour and mitigate repeat offences. Further, in scenarios where exceptions do occur, there are ways that the public can contest a PCN.
As the industry awaits the new government standards to be confirmed, discussions and debates surrounding the topic will continue. There needs to be change. Transparent and clear language and more education is required in order to change perception across the sector and improve public awareness surrounding the issue of parking abuse.
As road users battle for parking spaces, the inconvenience of a higher parking charge notice would make the correct decision far easier to make, and those caught cutting corners and disregarding restrictions would be encouraged and better-informed to make more responsible decisions in future.
Dyl Kurpil is managing director of District Enforcement
District Enforcement is a specialist enforcement company offering environmental crime enforcement, parking management, moorings management and event control to local authorities and private organisations.
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