Most of us are aware that we need to clear the snow from our car before we set out on a journey. However, one motorist was left furious after receiving a parking fine because snow had fallen on his car while he was at work and obscured where the permit was located.

Mysterious fine

Ollie Claxton was confused when he received a £70 parking fine through the post. The penalty had been issued by a Derby City Council parking warden and left Ollie puzzled because had a permit for where he had parked. He had been working away in London for a few months before receiving the letter on December 12th containing the fine.

He visited the council’s website where he could view a picture of his car and instantly realised what had happened – it had been snowing while he was in work and the windscreen of the car had a light covering on it. The parking warden had not bothered to dust the snow off to look for the permit and instead continued to issue the penalty.

Derby Council then admitted that snow and ice can cover a permit and revoked the fine after media outrage. It also came to light that the parking warden had accidentally put in the number plate wrong and was therefore not able to cross reference the number plate with a permit. The last digit had been inputted as a zero rather than the letter ‘O’.

Derby City Council said: “Drivers are responsible for ensuring that permits are clearly displayed, but snow and ice can temporarily obscure the visibility of a permit.

“Officers are advised not to touch vehicles to avoid possible complaints that they have caused any damage.”

Fines and fees

Figures from last year show drivers are paying out some £1.5 billion for parking permits, pay and display meters and fines across the country. Councils in London alone collected some £600 million from fines and fees, while the cost of parking in Leeds saw the highest increase in the country – up 12% from the previous year.

Penalty Charge Notices (PCN’s) are around £24 outside of London and around £77 inside the capital. Moreover, while councils did put half of the money made back into services, the fines and fees amount to £58 a year for every driver.

The top 10 councils parking incomes are:

  1. Westminster £76.4m
  2. Kensington & Chelsea £46.1m
  3. Camden £38.1m
  4. Hammersmith & Fulham £35.6m
  5. Wandsworth £30.4m
  6. Islington £29.7m
  7. Lambeth £27.5m
  8. Haringey £25.4m
  9. Hackney £23.3m
  10. Ealing £21.4m

Appealing parking fees

This ludicrous case highlights a growing problem with the number of parking fines being issued around the UK. While there are situations where people are parking somewhere they are not permitted, there are also cases where the situation is much less clear-cut.

You need to have a ‘compelling reason’ when you appeal your penalty charge notice, for the local council to reconsider it. Some examples include:

  • Penalty exceeded the amount that applied in the circumstances
  • The incident did not happen
  • The relevant traffic regulation order or TRO is invalid
  • There’s a problem with the procedure the council uses
  • You did not own the vehicle

Other compelling reasons could be used in Ollie’s example – he did have the parking permit, but the warden did not attempt to clear the window to look for it. Moreover, he could not be expected to keep leaving work to clear the windscreen in case a warden came around. However, this is a bit of a grey area because, under the same rules, drivers are expected to put a parking permit in a prominent position that can be displayed and seen at all times. A natural act of the weather covering the permit is a contentious issue. Inputting the number plate is an easy mistake, especially in cold weather and that Derby council apologised is appropriate.

Private parking tickets

The other type of parking fine we face is known as a private parking ticket. They are issued by non-public bodies such as supermarkets, hospitals and service stations. They are more difficult to enforce as the only way a company can do this is to take you to court.

They look similar to parking charge notices issued by local councils, and you have a 28-day period to pay them or face an increased fine. If you are unsure if the penalty is legitimate, you can challenge it with the company, and they should have a transparent appeals process laid out to follow.

The Government are looking at introducing new rules that would control and regulate the private parking permit market to ensure that drivers have more protection against unscrupulous firms who issue tickets as and when they like with impunity.

Sometimes we must hold up our hands and admit we were in the wrong with our choice of parking locations. However, in other cases, like Ollie’s, then appealing the fine is the best path to go down and the common sense shown by the council seemed appropriate.

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