Real life

Challenging parking tickets is my crack cocaine

I will fight this PCN all the way to the European Court of Justice

25 July 2015

9:00 AM

25 July 2015

9:00 AM

‘Cydney, we are not moving to Cobham!’ I told the spaniel in my best outraged Margot Leadbetter voice.

What a sad moment. All my adult life I have worshipped Cobham as a haven of everything good and right and well-functioning in the world. A place of old-fashioned values and comforting, staid right-wingery. A place of millionaires and lottery winners. A place where the streets are paved in Chelsea footballers, slightly drunk after a night out at the local steakhouse.

I have loved Cobham with all my heart, having one foot in it, by stabling my horses there, and one foot back in Balham, south London, where I live.

Recently, I moved the horses to Dorking but I was only there a few months when I realised my mistake. Dorking is not like Cobham. Dorking is all very well, if you like that sort of thing, but to my mind, there are way too many hills. Too many charming antique shops. Too many visitor centres. Too many cyclists. Too many Duke of Edinburgh Award teenagers with backpacks wandering around looking confused. Too many vegetarian cafés. Too many National Trust noticeboards. Too many reasonably priced houses.

No. It was no good. After a few months, my reactionary right-wing heart yearned for Cobham, with its £800,000 two-bedroom dormer bungalows and its pointless gift shops and clothing boutiques selling jumpers with sequins on for £500 a pop.

Cobham. Home of the brave, land of the free. Oh how I loved you. Past tense. Because now you’ve turned around and bitten me with the most ludicrous parking ticket I have ever had.


I had gone out for dinner with a friend who lives there and as I drove down Cobham High Street she suggested I use a little car park opposite the restaurant we were going to, which was round the back of a Boots chemist and looked for all the world like a council car park.

It never occurred to her, I suppose, that such a place would not be free at night. We pulled in and the car park was empty. We were the only ones parked there. We had a lovely dinner and thought no more of it until I got a letter a week later from Euro Car Parks.

The pay and display where I had left the Volvo for an hour was in fact charging the nominal sum of £1 at night and because I hadn’t paid it (according to their cameras), they were issuing me with a Parking Charge Notice (PCN) for £90.

Now, PCN sounds very much like an official fine. But upon further investigation I found out that if a private company demands payment for car parking, it has no right to insinuate it is a penalty of any kind, nor is it entitled to demand an exorbitant fee. Legally, the letter from Euro Car Parks calling itself a PCN is nothing more than an invoice.

So they can whistle for it. I have lodged a 1,300-word appeal, taking their demand to pieces because it appears to breach about ten laws and pretty much every kind of best practice. I can heartily recommend a site called penaltychargenotice.co.uk, which gives excellent advice on how to do this.

I intend to fight this all the way to, well, you know the drill. I will fight and fight and go blue in the face and steam will come out of my ears and if I have to go to the European Court of Human Rights, then so much the better. I thrive on this sort of thing. I’m addicted to challenging unfair parking tickets like some people are addicted to whisky or crack cocaine.

This one is so spurious it has adrenalised me to the point where I may as well be on crack. I couldn’t sleep at night before, you may remember, but now I lie in bed spitting tacks and every now and then, after drifting off into a fitful doze, I start upright screaming ‘Goddam them and their £90! I’ll see them in hell!’

But here is the really important thing. Cobham is no longer the wild west for me, although it clearly is for Euro Car Parks, who are behaving like carpetbaggers.

The frontier spirit illusion for this cowgirl, however, has been forever ruined. Never again will I be able to drive my XC90 up Oakdene Parade like John Wayne in True Grit. No more will I park up in the street to go get a Starbucks frappucino feeling like a gold prospector.

How on earth do I plot my escape from Lambeth, land of petty fines and left-wing bureaucracy, when I can’t even go to Cobham for a bite to eat in a Cote brasserie without incurring a ridiculous fine?

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  • Melissa Kite has prior form in this area. It seems she’s really not very good at spotting parking regulations – http://blog.dave.org.uk/2011/12/parking-in-balham.html

    • Adam

      Seems you’re the one too afraid to think for yourself and simply pay up because you’re impressed by an official looking letter, more fool you.

      They have no legal right to ask for the money. End of.

      • You appear to be reading rather more into my comment than I put there. I was commenting on Ms Kite’s inability to read parking restriction signs. I said nothing at all about my relationship with parking fines.

        • Adam

          But if you drive you’d pay them without putting up a fight 🙂 come on, admit it.

          Parking restriction signs come in many forms, as do penalty traps. Like the 3 metre stretches of bus lane that just happen to be right in front of a camera and come from nowhere before a main left turn, or the new taxi ranks, or the infinite number of privaTe car parks that ask for money they have no right to, or the army of council storm troopers who slap a fine on you for parking outside your own front door for a few minutes just to move a heavy item etc. Etc.

          I will not speak a word against anyone who stands up against these extortions in any way. Anyone who does is, what’s the word?….”Queasling”.

  • davidshort10

    I don’t spend too much of my time in the UK but i know it’s not a great idea to use a car there. When I do I assume that wherever I park someone will try to profit from me. I usually avoid a penalty but not always, such as when an Asda ticket dropped over a valid ticket elsewhere and I was clamped. Because I had to move quickly for an official appointment, I got the police to remove the clamp. But generally in the UK you may as well have your dinner served in your car. There are 30 million vehicles in the UK, one for every two men, women and children. Biggest market opportunity you can imagine!

  • davidshort10

    Let’s hope she gets paid more than £90 for the column then she’s in profit. Taki writes every week about getting drunk, Delingpole writes every week about being middle aged and unsuccessful, Melissa Kite write about Cobham, Balham, parking and parking fines. What’s not to like?

  • John

    Good luck.
    But in terms of local authority etc. parking, parking enforcement is the most ruthlessly efficient of all public services. I wish the rest of the public sector operated as efficiently. I got a ticket on a single yellow on Good Friday this year, parking on which I thought was fine on BHs, or at least it certainly used to be.

  • callimachus

    I presume that Ms Kite could go to Cobham for a bite to eat without incurring ridiculous ‘fines’ if she was more observant when parking on someone else’s property.

    • Adam

      They have no legal right to ask for the money. End of.

  • “I have lodged a 1,300-word appeal”

    One two-letter word is all you need. Having correctly identified that they haven’t got a legal leg to stand on, just do what I do and ignore them.

  • Adam

    There are two kinds of charges:

    1 – you are being charged for breaking a contract, like if you take a ticket to use a private car park like a Tesco and over stay your ticket. There’s a very good chance you will have to pay some of this.

    2 – the charge talked about in this article, in which there is no contract, and you simply park in a private car park and someone slaps a fine on you. As the article says, in this situation, they have no legal right to ask for the money as you can only be deemed to have committed an offense under trespassing laws, which means they would have to prove damages were caused. These damages could take the form of reduced business, so if you park in a private dark park that’s nearly full and they can prove this, you might well be liable, but in this case (and in mine!

    • Suzy61

      Adam, I come at this from another angle, living in a town centre apartment block where private parking spaces are provided with the cost of the apartment. One side of the small car park is for residents and the other side is used by a couple of businesses who can issue temporary permits for their customers. There are clear signs stating that the spaces are only for use by permit holders subject to 80.00 penalty charge.

      Every evening this week I have arrived home from work to find my space occupied by a car with no permit. I have to park behind the car (blocking it in) and leave a note on the windscreen to call my apartment when they return.

      I don’t like the confrontation. Some apologise but others seem angry that I have inconvenienced them! I ask them to imagine how they would feel if they arrived home from work to find a stranger had parked in their driveway – and gone off shopping, or to a restaurant.

      We have the option to call the Management company and ‘report’ the cars – which I have not done so far but I am getting increasingly frustrated at the situation.

      Given what you say, it seems most drivers are like-minded and are ignoring the signs with the intention of fighting any charge imposed. If the signs (they are huge and there are six of them) do not prevent folk parking in my space – how am I to resolve this?

      • BARROSO

        Get one of those metal bollard things on hinges that you simply lift up when you leave.

        • commenteer

          That would be possible for a private drive, but not for a communal space. Security gates are probably the only answer.

          • Suzy61

            We have asked about gates but the businesses have objected due to inconvenience for their customers. The metal bollard is also a non-starter.

          • Adam

            It would be very frustrating I’m sure, but as I said if someone was to park in my driveway, I can’t just demand £80, I have to use tress passing laws and show damages. So that’s how you resolve this, you show that damage has been done (you couldn’t get out or into your space). That’s fine, that’s genuine damage.

            You wouldn’t be able to sue for money if there were loads of other spaces and you just happened to slap an £80 fine on someone though. £80 for what? Because someone says so? Your landlord has no right to just demand money from me and expect it, he has to prove that he (or you in this case), deserve it because damage has been done.

            Perhaps private accommodation might come under contract law though given it’s residential rent etc. rather than private rent from the building, I don’t know.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Parking penalties like this hold no terror when your “Fly the UK coop” date is only weeks away. Obviously, the don’t leave an accurate forwarding address with anybody. Not even your dear Mama.
    Jack, c/o Achmed, Strand Hotel, Strand Road, Yangon, Union of Myanmar

  • tigerlily

    I seem to be having a war against poor customer service at the moment. Really gets the adrenaline pumping. I’m lying awake mentally composing a letter to the bank at the moment. I have work tomorrow too.

  • Lindabmunoz

    ^^^^^Now Get It -ssppeectator

  • Nick

    Tough titty.You parked in a prohibited area so pay the fine.

    • Adam

      So if as a private citizen I say you can be charged £3000 for parking infront of my building, and you park there for a moment and my home bought CCTV catches you, you’d pay me £3000 just because I ask you for it?

      You have the mind of a pathetic cowardly slave.

      There was no legal reason for her to pay the money, moron.

      • Nick

        Dear Adam.

        You need to calm down son and don’t take these forums too seriously.

        Was it really necessary for you to use language like ‘pathetic cowardly slave’and ‘moron’ towards me?

        All I did was give an opinion so get a life Adam.

        • Adam

          It was necessary, as overly nice language is why we are in the dire straits that we are in. I have long since passed the point of playing nice.

          This country and the west at large is falling to pieces thanks to the majority of people being too passive for generations.

          The fact that councillors in Rotherham have not been strung up on lamp posts is proof enough that the British people have been kowtowed into allowing their children to be prostituted without standing up for themselves.

          This parking ticket fiasco, where people like you simple pay up just because you are scared by an official looking letter with red ink, is all part of the same problem. Too willing to give up your money, your property, your right to free speech, your children, your future.

          You’re weak, and you don’t need the strong to be nice and cuddle you, we’ve seen that that fails. You need us to be brutally honest, and I say this to the majority all the time:

          Get a backbone and learn to standup for yourself. The state is not your friend, states are by and large leeches, wolves, parasites, thieves and abusers. So giving them your money enables evil. Stop bending over and spreading your backside on request.

          • Nick

            Like I said Adam,you need to calm down.

            Incidentally,it’s difficult for people to be more right wing than I am.

  • Richard Buttrey

    Just to be clear private parking companies (PPC) have every right to issue charge notices as agents of someone else or in their own right if a contract has been formed and payment in accord with that contract has not been made.

    The questions that arise are has a contract been formed and is the charge reasonable in the circumstances and a genuine pre-estimate of loss.

    Whether a contract has been formed is entirely dependent on the signage. Is it clear, unambiguous and meets all the legal requirements for signage, e.g. contains a contact telephone number, company registered name & address etc. If all this is in place and it’s clear what is being offered, i.e. the right to park for the stated fee then a contract will be formed and if it’s breached by say non payment of the parking charge then the company has the right to recover the charge and reasonable costs.

    As for the reasonable costs and what is a genuine estimate of loss this is presently being determined in the High Court as a result of the ‘Beavis’ case. That revolves around whether this may include a ‘penalty element’ pour encorager les autres of may only be the real loss incurred by the PPC

    An excellent site for all this stuff is pepipoo.com

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