There is nothing more annoying or bad for business than finding that your car park is being used by non customers on a shopping trip or collecting their children from school, meaning that your customers are unable to park their cars. 

Pub, hotel and restaurant operators have employed various schemes to alleviate this problem, from wheel clamping and towing to erecting barriers.  The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 effectively put paid to many of these schemes, making them illegal from October 2012. Operators who tow or clamp a vehicle on private land now risk a fine of up to £5,000 in the Magistrates Court.  See our article “End to Wheel Clamping in Car Parks” for more details.

One solution still open to operators wishing to prevent fly parking on private land such as a hotel or pub car park is to introduce pay and display ticketing and/or parking fines for those who park without a ticket or authority.  These schemes can be operated by the operator itself or could be contracted out to one of the many parking firms.

One pub in Northampton has recently introduced a £1 parking charge for the use of its car park with the aim of stopping mothers collecting their children from school from filling up the car park.  The fee is refunded when something is purchased from the bar and sensibly change is offered to customers who run short. A similar scheme has been introduced by the Moreton Hall Pub in Bury St Edmunds where there is £1 charge to park and a £60 fine for those parking but not using the pub.  A chain is also put across the car park once the pub closes.

Can you enforce parking charges?
Yes, but it is not always easy.  Any private parking ticket issued will not be a fixed penalty with legal weight. It will only be enforceable through the small claims court in a breach of contract action which will be harder for you to win.  It is often difficult to prove who the driver of a vehicle was at a specific time and under existing provisions the registered keeper has no obligation to inform you of the driver’s name and address, if it was not them.  However, if you belong to an accredited trade association (currently only the British Parking Association), and run your car park in accordance with their best practice, you will be able to apply to the DVLA for details of the registered keeper of a vehicle.

You can also recover unpaid parking charges from the registered keeper of a vehicle, rather than the driver, if:

  • You have a right to enforce parking charges against the driver but cannot do so because you do not have their name and address
  • You gave a notice to the driver setting out the parking charges payable or affixed a notice to the vehicle whilst it was parked on your land AND 28 days have passed since then
  • You make a claim against the registered keeper within 60 days of receiving his/her name and address from the DVLA.

Make sure that parking conditions clear
The key issue when issuing/enforcing a parking ticket is that the conditions of the car park have been made clear to those using your land when they park.  You MUST ADVERTISE any parking charges and enforcement mechanisms on a notice board at the entrance to the car park as well as inside the car park.

Hiring a private firm to manage your car park and issue fines can be expensive as is the installation of a ticket machine.  However, many publicans and hoteliers are finding that parking, particularly in town centres, is now such a problem that these costs should be outweighed by the increase in trade.

Further Information
Government Guidance on the Recovery of Unpaid Parking Charges under the Protection of Freedoms Act  2012

Accredited Trade Association  – British Parking Association’s Approved Operator Scheme


For any questions arising from this article, please contact Jana Kanagaratnam at or by phone on +44 (0) 345 271 6758

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.