Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Link Parking, you've been Gladstoned.

Claim Number D6GF6K5E (Link Parking vs Mr Mann). 09/01/2018. Cheltenham. DJ Singleton

Last year a member of the facebook group Fight Your Private Parking Invoice was approached for help in regards to a County Court claim issued by Gladstones Solicitors on behalf of Link Parking.

Guest Report

Summary; Gladstones Solicitors sent evidence late; witness statement late; their witness wasn't present in court; they couldn't prove the permit was a photocopy; case dismissed.

Mr Mann had been ticketed for parking in a visitors bay within a residential complex where he owns a property. The claimant alleged that he displayed a "photocopied" visitors permit as opposed to a "proper" permit.

As per usual, and as I've become used to seeing, Gladstones Solicitors issued the usual nonsense roboclaim that did not set out any course of action, far from professional for a regulated solicitor.

Upon drafting a defence and submitting it, Mr Mann received the usual proforma nonsense from Gladstones Solicitors; however we proceeded ahead.

The hearing

The case was allocated to the Cheltenham County Court. District Judge Singleton gave a concise and strict set of directions for all parties, including that Gladstones Solicitors must file a response to the defence; this was submitted late by Gladstones. Parties were also asked to submit evidence by set dates. Mr Mann ensured his was sent out on time; of course Gladstones Solicitors filed their evidence late, and even filed their witness statement late. Their Witness Statement was from the director of Link Parking.

The hearing was due at 14:00 on the 9th January 2018. A solicitor appeared on behalf of the Claimant. Mr Mann was assisted by Michael Hartnett, a member of the Facebook group. In the hearing, District Judge Singleton essentially said everything that was needed to be said and was not impressed with Gladstones' conduct, wasn't happy that the witness was not present in court, and the main point being that the claimant couldn't prove that a photocopy permit was used.

Case dismissed.

It amazes me from having supported quite a few members on the forums with court claims, that Gladstones Solicitors still systematically behave in a way that is deliberately deceitful, unprofessional and is simply not the conduct you'd expect from a professional company.

They have no regard to the court system, and merely use it in the hope that they'll get a default judgment or the defendant simply pays up.

Once again, Link Parking, you've been Gladstoned.

Prankster Notes

Gladstones Solicitors are owned and run by John Davies and Will Hurley. Yet again they have shown what an incompetent pair of charlatans they are, filing a claim with no merit and failing to ensure their company obeys the most simplest of court directions.

Luckily John and Will are apparently untroubled by any moral compass, or they would no doubt be unable to sleep at night.

Their actions amount to no better than stealing from their customers, since they are not providing the least kind of service one would expect from a properly behaved firm of solicitors. They are also essentially stealing from motorists, by attempting to claim money which is not owed by them.

Link Parking, you've been Gladstoned

Happy Parking

The parking Prankster

Monday, 18 December 2017

Company not liable for driver's personal actions. SCS Law humiliated in court

UK Parking Control v XYZ Ltd. Basildon 04/10/2017. D5HW078T DJ Monlieaux

UKPC represented by a solicitor from SCS Law
XYZ ltd represented by Mr D, an employee

The Prankster was asked for help by a small company.

In March 2017 they had received a worrying county court claim from a law company called SCS Law (a trading name of LPC Law), alleging that one of their vans had been parked on several occasions on the estate which their client  UKPC managed the parking for. This was the first they had heard of this, so they requested more information, which was duly emailed to them.

The van was a company van which had been parked at the house of an employee at night. SCS Law alleged that no commercial vehicles were allowed on the estate between something like 19:00-07:00 and UKPC had “charged” the member of staff with this offence at various times in the middle of the night – midnight etc. The employee had no recollection of this happening, and did not receive any windscreen tickets. UKPC had sent everything to the previous address of the company, who did not receive any of it, even though redirection was in place. Unfortunately there were two buildings on the site with very similar addresses and the same postcode, and a large amount of post had gone missing.

The employee made enquiries and found out that UKPC do operate the parking there. New signs had been fitted around his estate, but these were done in late December – all of the charges were from October and November 2016.

The Hearing

The judge was not impressed by SCS Law's bundle. She ruled that the company had no keeper liability; although they were the registered keeper of the van, they were not the keeper for the purposes of POFA 2012, which defines keeper in a different way. The staff member who used the van was the keeper.

The driver was also not acting as agent of the company, because this was private use after the working day had finished.

No contract was formed with the driver because the signs were poor and not visible at night when the tickets were issued.

The paperwork had also not been received within the mandatory time period, and was therefore out of time to establish keeper liability.

The claim was dismissed.

Prankster Notes

There were a number of other flaws with the case, any of which could also have rendered the charges invalid. The signage was forbidding, which would make any contravention a trespass, and the charges invalid as per the rulings in ParkingEye v Beavis [2015] UKSC 67. The UKPC contract appeared to be with a company which was dormant. It was not apparent why UKPC thought they could override the rights of the home owner to park on his own drive.

The operation appeared to be a self-ticketing one, with part of the income from each ticket going to the management company. This would appear to contradict their claim they were dormant.
 which it was decided not to use were not explored.


The claim was handled by Andrew Morgan.

The claim was so flawed that The Prankster questions the judgment of Andrew Morgan for his handling of the case. SCS Law claim to be experts in parking law, but on this showing The Prankster can only conclude that they are completely incompetent.

The buck has to stop somewhere, so the Prankster holds director Len Crowder to account.

If Len is not ensuring Andrew is trained properly, and apparently failing to ensure he has basic knowledge of the law surrounding parking, then this is partly Len's fault too. In the Prankster's opinion Len is failing his duty to his client by filing no-hope claims and taking his client's money without apparently fully appraising them of the risks involved.

Really, if you are holding yourself up to be experts in some area of law, you should at least have basic knowledge of the issues.
We are a firm that specialises in litigation on behalf of private parking companies.
We have issued over 5000 legal proceedings to date in relation to parking tickets and attended over 4000 hearings representing parking companies at court
Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Did you book parking online at Liverpool Airport?

The Prankster has been made aware of a twitter thread from foodwithaface

A parking space was booked online with a company called Liverpool Airport Limited. The car was duly parked at the airport.

On returning from the trip, Foodwithaface found that the vehicle has a windscreen ticket, issued by a different company called Vehicle Control Services. The ticket claimed the vehicle has contravened some new terms and conditions which were not present on the web site.

She therefore appealed to VCS, who as usual dismissed the appeal. The dismissal appeared to have little in common with the actual appeal.

Foodwithaface therefore started a Facebook and Twitter campaign highlighting the problem. After a short time Liverpool Airport relented and cancelled the parking charge.

Prankster Notes

If you have booked online at Liverpool Airport and been issued with a parking charge, then you may have grounds to either get it cancelled; or, if you have paid, get the money refunded.

There are two issues in play here. Firstly, if you have entered into a contract to park with Liverpool Airport Limited, then Vehicle Control Services are not a party to that contract and therefore have no rights to charge to for breach of contract.

Liverpool Airport could of course get VCS to enforce the contract on their behalf - but that is clearly not what is happening - the (not a) parking charge notice claims that VCS are the creditor, and not Liverpool Airport.

The second point is that once you have entered into a contract with somebody, the other party cannot unilaterally alter it. They cannot, for instance, introduce additional terms and conditions which were not originally present.

The terms and conditions do not mention that there is a parking charge for contravening the contract. The ParkingEye v Beavis case in the supreme court shows that it is crucial for the existence and level of any charge to be prominently brought to the attention of the motorist at the time the contract is in force. If it is not, then it is likely to be an unfair term breaching the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

On another level, it is extremely worrying that the DVLA is giving out keeper data to a company who appear to have no rights to request this. The DVLA give this data out without putting any robust processes in place to check that the request is valid and that the company has the right to this data.
This is a clear dereliction of duty by the DVLA and may also be a breach of data protection legislation.


Liverpool Airport changed their terms and conditions on about 7th December. The new text is as follows.

5.2 Customers should park vehicles only within designated bays, within authorized areas and so as not to cause obstruction, failure to park within a designated bay may result in a Parking Charge Notice.

However, this does not properly provide the information about parking charges required by Beavis, such as the charge level and the full set of reasons for charges. It also does not address the fact that VCS are still not party to any contract, and so have no rights to any charges.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

Is Bryn Holloway Lead Assessor of the Independent Appeals Service corrupt or incompetent?

The Prankster has been made aware of yet another bogus decision by the kangaroo court run by the the IPC, as detailed in this MSE thread.


The vehicle keeper was not the driver, and based their case on the fact that keeper liability did not apply in this situation.


The parking company stated that they were claiming against the vehicle keeper and that keeper liability applied.

The vehicle keeper informed the IAS that they were not the driver and appealed to the IAS on the single point that keeper liability did not apply. This was because the notice to keeper failed to specify the land where the vehicle was parked and also was not delivered in the correct time.

The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, schedule 4 makes the keeper liable for parking charges in certain circumstances. This is a quite incredible concession which does not exist anywhere else in contract law - that someone can be liable for a contract entered into by another person which they have no real knowledge or control over. In return for this, the parking companies have to obey a few minor rules.

It is completely fair they they need to tell the keeper where the vehicle was parked. Without this information, the keeper is completely in the dark. Clearly 'ONE STOP' does not fulfil this requirement. If this is perhaps a shop, then there are over 770 of these in England, Scotland and Wales.

The notice also has to be served within a specific time frame. The parking company claim they posted it within the time frame, but this is not the requirement. The requirement is that it arrives in the timeframe. The parking company also failed to provide any evidence of posting.

As there is no reason to disbelieve the fact that the letter arrived out of time, and the parking company are not disputing this, then clearly keeper liability does not apply.

So how then does the assessor deal with this minor irritation which blows the parking company case out of the water? Simple. They rule the late delivery as an inadmissible appeal point and tell the keeper to refer any complaints to the IPC. As for the relevant land point, this is silently ignored.

The appeal was dismissed

Prankster Notes

The assessor claims to be a barrister or solicitor (although they apparently do not know which they are).

It is therefore ludicrous that they are unaware of the basic law surrounding keeper liability and they also demonstrate a beginners failing to understand the law of contract.

It is also bizarre that a person who claims to be legally qualified is unable to deal with both points of a two point appeal.

Bryn Holloway

Bryn Holloway is the lead assessor of the Independent Appeals Service and the buck stops with him.

This is not an isolated incident. Pretty much EVERY appeal to the IAS which the Prankster has been made aware of is not dealt with correctly by the assessors.

When complaints are made, the IAS does not investigate them but instead send back a template reply stating that it cannot investigate the complaint because this would affect the impartiality of the service.

Therefore, in the Prankster's opinion, this is clear and unambiguous evidence that the process is not fair, but is biased against the motorist.

  • Assessors have little or no knowledge of the legal issues surrounding parking
  • Assessors fail to consider relevant appeal points
  • Assessors put different weight on evidence from parking companies than they do from motorists
  • Assessors make rulings which are out of line with those being made by real judges
  • The service is set up to be difficult to use by the motorist - for instance, they cannot paste into online entry fields, but must type everything out.
  • The service claims to be an ADR Entity, but fails to comply with the requirements for being an ADR Entity.
  • The service fails to investigate complaints or make meaningful changes

Bryn Holloway should be ashamed of his disgraceful behaviour in the way he runs this service.

If he is running the appeals service in this way knowingly, then The Prankster believes that the man on the street can only class this corrupt behaviour - Bryn is essentially colluding with parking companies to defraud motorists out of money they do not owe. If he is running the service in this way unknowingly, then by definition he is incompetent.

A fair appeals service needs a strong character who can stand up to the parking companies and the trade association, and run it in an impartial way. The position of lead assessor is vitally important in an industry staffed by chancers, fraudsters, bullies and incompetents. There are good people in this industry, but they are disadvantaged by having to compete with bottom feeders allowed to get away with anything.

It does not need someone like Bryn Holloway who appears on the available evidence to be a weak character, and no more than a lapdog for Will Hurley and John Davies.

So Mr Holloway, which is it? Are you corrupt or are you incompetent?

Either way The Prankster calls on you to resign and make way for someone who can do the job in a fair and impartial manner.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

Court Report - UKPC Sunk Without Trace in Southampton

D2HW1A2M – UKPC v Mr L, before District Judge Cawood, Southampton

Guest blog by Bargepole

Claimant represented by Mr Carmichael (a proper solicitor)
Defendant represented by me as Lay Rep

This was a case I picked up from the Pepipoo forum. The Claim was for £2,560 + fixed costs, for 16 tickets accumulated at the Defendant’s previous residence.

His wife had been the Leaseholder of the property, and the Lease granted exclusive use of a numbered space, with no mention of any need to display permits, or to pay penalties to a third party. Primacy of contract was therefore the strongest defence argument, and all of the relevant authorities supporting this point had been included in the bundle.

I agreed with Mr Carmichael beforehand, that we should ask the Judge to rule on that point as a preliminary matter, because if the defence succeeded on that, everything else was irrelevant.

But when we went into Court, the DJ started laying into the Claimant’s advocate, saying that they had filed a bundle comprising 400 pages, and how was he supposed to deal with that in a 2 hour hearing. He also said their Particulars did not address the point made by the Defence about the Lease, and they hadn’t explained how their contract with the managing agent could constitute a variation to the lease terms.

It got worse. He then turned to the redacted contract in the Claimant’s bundle, saying the Directions had clearly said that the original should be produced. I then pointed out that, even if the copy contract could be admitted as valid evidence, that didn’t assist the Claimant. The party named on the contract was “The Residents of Park Centrale C/O Hazelvine Ltd”. Hazelvine are the managing agents, but there is no legal entity such as the residents, or any unincorporated residents’ association, and the Defendant had lived there for five years and never heard of them. The contract was also for 12 months, and dated 2013, so didn’t cover the dates in question. The DJ said he needed to consider what weight to give to that evidence, the answer being zero.

The DJ then returned to the central point, which was that the case could not proceed unless the Claimant could show whether and how the Lease terms had been varied. He said that the Claimant should have requested permission to amend their Particulars pursuant to CPR 17.1, once they had sight of the Defence. Mr Carmichael requested a short adjournment to take instructions, and went off to phone SCS Law.

Upon his return, he asked if he could make a verbal application now, under the informal procedure of the small claims track. The DJ was having none of that, saying that the Defendant was already at a disadvantage because the Claimant’s witness was not there to be cross-examined.

So he gave his Judgment. He said that the Claimant’s solicitor was attempting to pull rabbits out of a hat, and that wouldn’t work in his court. The Claimant was a Limited Company with extensive resources, and had used solicitors to conduct their case. If he allowed an adjournment for the Claimant to file new particulars, it would then probably be re-listed a few months later for a full day hearing, which was not a proportionate use of Court resources. He also noted that the Defendant had had this hanging over him for several months, and it would not be just or fair to make him wait longer for the outcome.

Claim dismissed, and so on to costs. The ordinary witness costs of £103.60 were agreed without argument, and we had filed and served a costs schedule for further costs based on unreasonable conduct under CPR 27.14(2)(g). The DJ said that the Claimant’s behaviour had been negligent rather than unreasonable, but he did allow a Lay Representative fee of £105, so a total of £208.60 awarded to the Defendant.

Prankster Notes

Rupert William's UKPC is a disreputable company which has survived two prosecutions by Trading Standards, and widespread fraud by their wardens doctoring time-stamps on photographs to falsely accuse motorists of overstaying.

Now they have been caught issuing tickets at a place where it seems impossible they had a valid contract.

It the DVLA are to keep handing out keeper details, some form of balance and control is needed to protect the public from rogues and charlatans, and some form of appropriate penalty is needed to curb irresponsible behaviour. If the DVLA are too scared to ban parking companies, then perhaps some lesser penalty is needed. The Prankster suggest it might be appropriate that motorists get automatically paid £100 by the parking company if a ticket is found not to be valid.

Oh yes, and congratulations to Bargepole for another excellent court appearance.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Courts buckling under number of claims

The Law Society Gazette has published an article warning that the courts are buckling under the number of claims issued, which has reached a 10 year high.

From July to September this year, the Ministry of Justice reported that 560,000 claims were issued in the county court – the second highest quarterly figure since 2006. Of these, 445,000 were specified money claims, a figure which was up 15% on the same period in 2016. The number of claims being defended increased year on year by 5% to 76,000.

If there have been 76,000 hearings between July and September, we can estimate there are 304,000 per year. The Gazette figures also imply 1 in 7 claims goes to a hearing.

Has the Parking Industry contributed to this problem?

Undoubtably. The British Motorists Protection Association keeps a tally of the number of parking hearings. Although it is not informed about all of them, there have been at least 6,828 of them (not including set-asides and re-hearings) this year.  On this basis, parking companies file about 48,000 claims a year.

Parking hearings also contribute just over 2% to the total number of hearings.

Of these, well over half are filed by Gladstones Solicitors, who are owned by Will Hurley and John Davies. These are the same people who run the International Parking Community, a trade association who give members access to the DVLA keeper database. The IPC also run an appeals service which is well known for being run in an unfair manner with a clear bias against motorists

Will Hurley and John Davies have therefore set themselves up as judge, jury and executioner, with a nice little conveyor belt going.

They set up a trade association apparently designed to attract the rogues and bottom feeders of the industry. They dismiss motorists appeals on bogus grounds not in line with decisions made by the real courts. They then feed the charges through from the IPC to Gladstones, funding the costs themselves, but adding an estimated £125 per claim for their own pockets (£50 debt collection charge, £50 filing fee, £25 court fee).

Even though Gladstones have proven themselves to be totally incompetent in court, their approximately 4,000 hearings can be viewed as something of a loss leader. It is the 28,000 cases which never get to court which are the true business model of Gladstones, who are creaming in an estimated £3.5 million from a largely automated process requiring no effort or thought.

It is interesting that a pair of scoundrels can make themselves rich through a business model which disregards the fact that they are hopeless in court, (as often reported), but instead relies on bullying and intimidation to make motorists pay charges which based on Gladstones record, they would not be liable for if the case went to a hearing.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

The great private car park planning approval scam

Guest blog from shuteyepark, from the Consumer Action group forums

In December 2013 my daughter received a Parking Charge Notice (PCN) from ParkingEye after over-staying a 2-hour free parking limit at Rivington Services (otherwise known as Bolton West Services) on the M61 Motorway.

When we received the PCN we carefully investigated the ANPR system on site and discovered that although the cameras had planning permission the associated signage did not have advertisement consent. The Council’s Enforcement Officer contacted the landowner and / or private parking company (PPC) and requested them to apply for consent for the signs, and this consent was eventually granted in April 2015. The planning documents stated that the signs had been erected in May 2011, i.e. some four years prior to receiving consent.

Having not received any of the original PCN papers due to problems with the post, my daughter found herself with a CCJ  which we attempted to have set aside. We were in court five times, what with adjournment, stays to await Beavis verdicts and then the set aside application itself.

At the final hearing in 2016 at the Bolton County Court we relied, you might think unwisely, on a defence that the signage was illegal.  ParkingEye’s Claims Handler, David Greenbank, although not attending the hearing, had submitted a Skeleton Argument containing a claim that they had been granted planning permission for the signs retrospectively. The judge found in favour of ParkingEye and anyway we had run out of time and he was anxious to move on to the next case (back-to-back parking cases).  We had evidence to prove our case, but weren’t allowed to present it.

Some time later I came across another case heard at Barrow County Court in May 2015 where again ParkingEye were Claimant.  Indeed the very same Claims Handler, this time in a Witness Statement bearing a statement of truth, made the same claim: that they had been granted planning permission retrospectively for the cameras and signage.

Then I came across a third case, this time involving the car park at Dovecot Street, Stockton-on-Tees and a CAGger known as ‘terrier82’ who on 11th November 2016 reported: “Lost in court today, said due to the retrospective application making it legal.”  It looks as if yet another judge had been persuaded by this retrospective signage planning permission scam. Tracing back through the ‘terrier82’ CAG thread to 29th June 2016 I found a copy of a Defence to Counterclaim Document indicating that the Claimant was once again ParkingEye. I wondered how many more cases they have won based upon false evidence? They didn’t get away with it at Crewe County Court in September when the judge found their evidence was “tantamount to perjury” ( uk/2017/09/parking-eye-witness-tantamount-to-perjury.html). So at Bolton, at Barrow, at Stockton and finally at Crewe County Court a single PPC has tendered evidence that cannot be true.  Please send in your comments if you know of others.

Incensed by losing our case in court, and seriously concerned about possible miscarriages of justice, I set about investigating possible abuses of the planning system.  For several years retired solicitor Robert Ransome had done some sterling work in listing private car parking sites that lacked planning approval.

I decided to conduct a comprehensive forensic investigation into planning as it relates to private car parks. I have now investigated over 400 sites, including all the ‘usual suspects’.  The results are astonishing. At around three quarters of the sites I was unable to find advertisement consent for the parking signage. At almost all of the remaining sites advertisement consent applications were made for signs all of which were illegally in place. Usually these applications followed complaints made to the Local Planning Authority (LPA) by members of the public, councillors and in one case a solicitor.  The belated applications ranged up to 10 years post- installation, with an average of some 30 months. It was extremely unusual to find a single site where planning had been applied for in advance which, in most cases, we are all legally required to do.

Soon I discovered that over five or more years the PPCs have been playing a cat- and-mouse game with the LPAs.  Of the 400+ sites studied I found 60 where the LPA, almost invariably after receiving a complaint, directed or requested that the advertiser apply for planning permission and / or advertisement consent. Searching through vast numbers of planning registers I noted the criteria involved in private car park planning.

Meanwhile, I contacted scores of LPAs and asked whether planning approvals can be back-dated, because ParkingEye clearly purports that if a site didn’t have planning approvals these could always be obtained later.  To date, 133 LPAs have responded and almost without exception they state that ANPR cameras require planning permission (as land is being developed), and parking signs are classed as advertisements and normally require advertisement consent, a completely separate and parallel system to planning permission.

Almost invariably the LPAs consider parking signs each smaller than 0.3sqm in area as having ‘deemed consent’, and signs exceeding this size as not having deemed consent but requiring ‘express consent’ under Class 2, Schedule 3 of the Town and Country (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007 (or the Welsh equivalent, the 1992 Regs).

ANPR cameras attached to buildings have deemed consent - e.g. under the Town and Country Planning  (General Permitted Development Order) 1995 - but cameras mounted on new, dedicated free-standing poles (as most ANPR cameras are) normally require planning permission. This planning permission can be applied for belatedly, and after four years unauthorised cameras are immune from enforcement (see, for example: Beehive Centre, Cambridge; Peel Centre, Stockport; and Welcome Break, South Mimms, Motorway Service Area).

The situation for advertisement consent is quite different.  Advertisements do not become immune from enforcement until 10 years after installation. Anyone who displays an unauthorised advert commits a criminal offence, and it is immediately open to the LPA to bring a prosecution in the Magistrates’ Court under s.224 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The penalty on conviction is currently up to £2,500, and in the case of a continuing offence a further daily fine of up to £250 until the contravention ends. Where a LPA achieves a successful conviction for failure to comply with an enforcement notice they can apply for a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, to recover the financial benefit obtained through unauthorised development. This power is not used often.

Government policy, however, is that LPAs should not rush to prosecute, and the authorities have expressed concern about the financial risks of losing against large commercial concerns with deep pockets.  So what tends to happen when a PPC is detected as having unauthorised ANPR cameras and / or signs is that the LPA politely requests them to apply for the appropriate approval, which is almost invariably granted.  Only if an advertisement is considered to be detrimental to public safety or amenity can it be refused. Of the 60 sites where I found LPA enforcement against PPCs / owners,  55 complied with the enforcement deadline, which is normally 7 – 28 days.  At the remaining 5 sites the deadline was breached by one month (Aldi, Blaby; and North Tees Hospital), two months (Hindpool Retail Park; and Corner House Retail Park), and three months (The Range, Barrow). How ironic, that a PPC that pursues parkers / keepers for overstays of mere minutes can itself breach planning enforcement directions by months! Such hypocrisy!

PPCs have known since at least the end of 2012 that advert consent was required for their parking signage. Why, then, did they continue to flout the planning laws by failing to obtain approval for all other sites for at least the next five years?  As one Enforcement Officer put it:  “Having been aware that the signs at (XXXX) Retail Park were unauthorised I am surprised your company has not addressed other unauthorised signage at other locations within this borough, especially when criminal liability is attached to your flagrant breach of the Advertisement Regulations.”

So the first big question is:  Do private car park parking signs comply with the rules? Do they have deemed consent?  Answer: No, they almost always exceed the 0.3sqm area threshold.  The largest sign eligible for deemed consent would be around 550 x 550mm (area approx 0.3sqm), the sort of size we see occasionally in car parks as repeater signs. The Planning Portal states: “You may need to apply for advertisement consent to display an advertisement bigger than 0.3 square metres.....”  . Virtually all private car parks have signs larger than this threshold size, and most car parks have at least one large sign, e.g. at the entrance. And it only takes one large sign amongst many to break the rules. Some PPCs, e.g. ParkingEye, often have standard sizes of signs at their sites, e.g. 600 x 800mm = 0.5sqm area, and all of these require express consent from the LPA.

It is interesting to note that Riverside Retail Park (Chelmsford) did not have advert consent at the time Barry Beavis received a PCN there, but the issue was not raised by the defence.  (Footnote:  The LPA says that they would have granted planning permission and advert consent if an application had been made).

In the present study of 400+ sites, 305 (over 70%) appeared to have no advert consent whatsoever.   A further 98  (approx 25%) did not apply for advert consent until they were ‘outed’ by complaints from the public.  By that stage they may have been issuing parking charges for many years, even ten years. The average time of lacking consent was around 30 months, and many thousands of unauthorised parking charges may have been issued per site during that time. In total,  millions of victims may have been unfairly penalised. (In most of these cases it was ParkingEye that applied for the planning, despite their false claims that they were not able to apply).

The second big question is:  Can PPCs obtain advert consent retrospectively?  The answer is a definite “NO”. There is no such thing as retrospective advert consent. This is confirmed by virtually every LPA contacted. Space does not here permit a full recital of other evidence that supports this statement. However, in the Court of Appeal in the case of Andre Agassi  v.  S. Robinson (H. M. Inspector of Taxes) [2005] EWCA Civ 1507 there was a modern slant on the old dictum that nobody should profit from their unlawful conduct.  At [20] and [28] is stated that costs recoverable in litigation cannot include the costs of any activities that are unlawful.

Illegality defences were explored in the Court of Appeal in ParkingEye Ltd  v. Somerfield Stores Ltd [2012] EWCA Civ 1338 where Laws L.J. at [29] concluded that ParkingEye, when contracting with Somerfield, did not at the outset have an intention to deliberately break the law. Consequently he upheld the contract. Contrast that with this present situation where some PPCs have deliberately broken the law by erecting their contract-bearing signage without first having in place the mandatory prior advert consent required by law. As we have seen, any unauthorised advertising constitutes a criminal offence which will remain so for all time. Such illegality cannot be reversed by a subsequent grant of advert consent. In contrast to the Somerfield situation, where illegality was incidental to the contract and unintentional, here illegal wrongs have been committed at the time of entering contracts with defendants. Furthermore, the wrongs are deliberate, are central to the contract, are criminal (not civil torts) and are repeated at multiple sites on multiple occasions over half a decade or so. The scale is industrial.

While the debate continues about legal issues, there is another important issue to consider: adherence to codes of practice. In order to obtain the details of a vehicle’s registered keeper from the DVLA a PCC must be a member of an Accredited Trade Association (ATA) that is recognised by the DVLA.  There are currently two ATAs: The British Parking Association (BPA) and the Independent Parking Community (IPC).  Both ATAs have an Approved / Accredited Operator Scheme (AOS) and a Code of Practice (CoP).  Every version of every CoP that I have seen requires their Member PPCs to conduct their businesses according to the Law.

In the case of the BPA the CoPs state: “2.4    When there is relevant legislation and related guidance, this will define the overall standard of conduct for all AOS members. All AOS members must be aware of their legal obligations and implement the relevant legislation and guidance when operating their businesses......”   and: “4.3    Under the Code you must keep to all the requirements laid down by law.”

In the case of the IPC the CoP ( e.g. 26th September 2014 version) states: “It remains the duty of the operator to appraise themselves with any legal provisions that concern their operations and to adhere to them.”  and: “2.4    If you obtain and process vehicle keeper’s data you are obliged to: 2.42   Be compliant with all necessary legislation.”  and: “3.1   This Code is designed to complement the laws which apply to the parking industry. It is your responsibility to ensure that your business adheres to all relevant legal provisions.”

To summarise, the PPC (whether a BPA member or an IPC member)  has an overriding duty to comply with the law in creating and enforcing its contract with a motorist (or, by extension under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, with a vehicle’s keeper), and in communicating the terms of that contract.

In the judgment in Cavendish Holdings BV v. Talal El Makdessi; ParkingEye Limited  v. Beavis [2015] UKSC 67 the judge drew attention to the BPA CoP.  At [111] is stated: “.....while the Code of Practice is not a contractual document, it is in practice binding on the operator since its existence and observance is a condition of his ability to obtain details of the registered keeper from the DVLA. In assessing the fairness of a term, it cannot be right to ignore the regulatory framework which determines how and in what circumstances it may be enforced.”

Virtually 100% of sites in this survey either had no advert consent whatsoever for their parking signs, or were obliged to apply belatedly with no possibility of back- dating. Most of the signs are, or at some time were, unauthorised and displaying unauthorised signs is a criminal offence. All AOS CoPs require their members to operate within the law, but the elephant in the room, the inconvenient truth, is that the signage is almost entirely outside the law. Meanwhile PPCs that do not adhere to the CoP are not entitled to obtain keeper particulars from the DVLA, yet they do.  Indeed, a typical DVLA KADOE  contract with the PPC, at [A5.1], requires users to: “ all times comply with Law and Industry Best Practice....” and, at [A6.1],  to: “.....comply with the ATA’s Code of  Practice or conduct.”

Many of us have complained to PPCs, to the BPA and to the DVLA but all deny that there is a problem – every complaint seems to be suppressed. What we have here is a vast gravy train of citizens’ money, continuously gaining speed and now out of control. The ATAs are not independent, being funded in a cosy arrangement with the PPCs, and turkeys don’t vote for Christmas!  The DVLA, too, are turning over vast amounts of our money in data access fees; they continually claim they do not profit from this service, but the costings they have produced seem to be more akin to those relating to manual (V888) enquiries rather than electronic enquiries which appear to operate with minimal human involvement.

There may be questions about the statistical sampling method used in this study. Sites were investigated initially because they were high-profile, controversial car parks, and of course it may well be that low-profile orthodox sites may be missed. For that reason, the study is being extended and another 400 sites are currently under investigation. Planning registers are now being searched, not only by postcode / applicant name, but non-specifically using catch-all searches  on key- words such as ‘ANPR’, ‘camera’, ‘recognition’ and ‘automatic’.

To conclude, this study raises serious concerns about the monitoring and regulation of private car parks. These results form part of a much larger report to be presented to MPs in advance of a Parliamentary debate on self-regulation listed for the New Year.  Meanwhile, PPCs should be held to account and should refund all those parking charges gained at sites that are or were being operated in breach of the law and CoPs. There is particular concern that many PPCs are claiming to operate within the CoPs when they are actually in breach; they use the CoP as a kind of veneer or cloak of respectability and the public and authorities are being seriously misled. These interim results will inevitably fuel demands for the introduction of a proper independent statutory regulation system, since self-regulation really isn’t working.

Prankster Note

It is of course very worrying that private parking companies such as ParkingEye charge motorists huge sums for trivial overstays, while operating a deliberate policy of not complying with the law.

One ParkingEye employee confided their strategy to The Prankster

One thing to note that may be of interest to you motorists is that the majority of sites, there is no planning permission.
We operated a model of retrospective planning.
So get the go ahead from the client, bang the system in and then if there was any noise file a retrospective planning order.
Point was to save on costs. And it worked.

Shuteyepark has done a vast amount of research regarding planning permission and advertising consent. His research can be downloaded from here.

Happy Parking