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How to successfully appeal a UK parking fine

Parking fines are very irritating, but success rates are high when it comes to appealing them. 

Almost 20,000 parking fines were issued every day by UK councils last year, said Sky News, with revenue for local authorities from penalty charge notices rising by more than £35,000 to around £777,287. 

Meanwhile, a record 8.6m parking tickets were given to drivers by private firms between April 2021 and March 2022, according to the Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). 

Finding a parking ticket on your windscreen is frustrating. But two thirds of parking tickets are scrapped after an appeal, said Which?, so it is definitely worth trying to have it overturned.

Council vs. private parking fines 

Parking tickets can be issued by official bodies such as local authorities and the police, or private companies, explained MoneySavingExpert. It’s crucial to know which yours came from, the financial website said, adding that “they can look very similar because private companies’ tickets do better impressions…than Alistair McGowan.” 

A penalty charge notice (PCN) or fixed-penalty notice (FPN) is an “official” fine from the council, said The Guardian, which will have a different appeals procedure to a private company ticket or a “parking charge notice”. 

Drivers don’t need to automatically pay a fine they receive on private land, said CompareTheMarket. You could appeal or just ignore such a fine, but “the parking operator may continue to chase you for the money or could even take you to court”, where you could argue your case, but if you lose, you may end up forking out even more money.

If a parking company put a ticket on your car, explained Citizens Advice, and the company isn’t a member of an accredited trade association (ATA), “don’t contact them unless they write to you first.” This is because only ATA members can get your name and address from the DVLA. 

Don’t pay if you are going to appeal 

A discounted rate is typically offered if a parking fine is paid within 14 days, but don’t pay it if you are planning to appeal. Once you make a payment, explained MoneyNerd, it’s understood that you accept guilt and the case is closed. 

Plus, the discounted rate is usually available even if you lose your appeal.

Did you follow the parking rules?

If you plan to appeal a council or private parking fine, start by gathering evidence. Reasons for appeal could include “unclear or misleading signs”, said Which?, or non-visible markings. Details of how to appeal and who to contact should be on the parking ticket. 

Gather evidence while on site, advised the RAC, “including taking pictures of signs, proof of time of return, how your vehicle was parked, or keep receipts if you have been accused of not using facilities or going off-site”.

Your ticket should be cancelled if a parking meter or machine was broken and there was no other way to pay, said Citizens Advice. However, “it won’t be cancelled if there was another machine you could have used,” and many car parks now insist on drivers paying using a smartphone app. 

It is always useful to check whether a private operator is a member of the British Parking Association or the International Parking Committee trade body, the RAC said. “Check their code of practice to see whether the operator has acted in accordance and whether the reason for their ‘ticket’ is appropriate.” 

PCNs must be issued within 14 days. There is a small loophole, added MoneyNerd, which could extend this timeline: if the private car park operator told you about the pending ticket when you were on the premises but a letter arrived more than 14 days after the alleged contravention, “you could use this as a reason to lodge an appeal.”  

How to appeal a parking fine 

Which? has free letter templates to help argue against a fine from a private company or a council, and there are others online. 

Alternatively, you could use artificial intelligence to launch your appeal. A York St John University student successfully appealed against a £60 parking fine by using a letter written by popular AI chatbot ChatGPT. 

Of course, rather than appealing a parking ticket it’s better not to get one in the first place, added Which?. This means checking for yellow lines and signs when you park. 

As long as you find the part of the sign that applies to you, the consumer website added, and ensure you won’t be parked for longer than the allowed time, you shouldn’t receive a ticket. It may be best not to risk it if you are unsure though as “it would be difficult to appeal a ticket based on the fact that you couldn’t understand the sign.” 

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