Driving advice How to contest a parking ticket

Very few people appeal parking tickets, but two thirds of those who do appeal win their case. Here’s our guide to how to appeal.

Video: how to appeal a parking ticket


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Video transcript

Few things are more annoying than coming back to your car to find and yellow envelope tucked under the windscreen wiper But if you have received a parking ticket and you think its unfair you can appeal start by writing to the
council explaining why you disagree with the ticket. Perhaps the signs at the roadside weren't clear, or you have a permit to park there.

Enclose any evidence you have to support your case such as photographs of the scene. The cost of a parking ticket usually doubles if you take more than fourteen days to pay. But if you appeal within fourteen days and your appeal is rejected, most councils will reset this early payment discount to a further 14 days.

so you have nothing to lose by trying. If this initial appeal is rejected, you'll be sent a Notice to Owner, or NTO. you then have 28 days to pay up or lodge a formal appeal. If your formal appeal is rejected You have a further 28 days to appeal to an independent adjudicator. You can ask for a hearing by post, telephone, or in person.

separate adjudicators cover England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and London. So who you appeal to depends on where your parking ticket was issued. Remember, two-thirds of people who do appeal win their case, so you have a good chance of success. For more information, including example of appeal letters visit which.co.uk/parkingappeals.

To appeal a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) or council clamp/removal fee

There are several legal grounds for appealing against a PCN parking ticket, including that the alleged parking contravention did not actually happen, or that when the vehicle was parked it had been taken without your consent. 

A full list of grounds for appeal against parking tickets is available on the Traffic Penalty Tribunal website.

You may also think you shouldn't have received a parking ticket because of exceptional circumstances (for example, you had stopped your car to help at an accident).

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Issuing a parking ticket

Parking tickets can be issued by Civil Enforcement Officers or the police

Appeal the parking ticket/clamp/removal fee informally

Start your parking ticket appeal informally by writing to the council explaining in detail why the parking ticket was wrong. Include any evidence to support your case, such as receipts, witness statements or photos. 

If you write within 14 days of receiving the notice, the early-payment discount period is usually frozen until you receive a response.

If you've received a postal PCN parking ticket, start the appeals process with a formal appeal (see below). Do not pay the parking ticket at this stage, as once you've paid it is almost impossible to get a refund.

Appeal the parking ticket/clamp/removal fee formally

If you're appealing against clamping fees and the council doesn't respond within 56 days of receiving your letter of appeal, it must cancel the PCN parking ticket and refund the release fee you've paid.

If the council rejects your informal parking ticket appeal, you will be given the opportunity to appeal formally. This is called 'making formal representations', and the council will inform you how to do this. 

Those who receive a parking ticket by post have to start their appeal at this formal representations stage, and a 21-day discount period applies

Notice to Owner

If the council rejects your formal appeal, you will receive a Notice To Owner (NTO) that officially orders you to pay the original charge. It also tells you how to present a further parking ticket appeal to independent adjudicators. 

There are four different parking adjudication services serving different parts of the UK:

  • PATAS serves London
  • The Traffic Penalty Tribunal serves the rest of England and Wales
  • Parking tickets issued in Northern Ireland are adjudicated by the Traffic Penalty Tribunal (NI)
  • Civil parking tickets issued in Scotland are handled by Scottish Parking Appeals Service, which can be contacted on 0131 221 0409.
Clamping is now illegal on private land

Clamping is now illegal on private land

You have 28 days from the day the NTO is served (usually two days after the NTO is issued) to either pay the parking ticket fee or lodge a formal appeal. 

If you do neither, the council has the right to increase the fine by 50%. If you still don't pay, the council can register the debt at the county court and then send bailiffs to recover it.

Lodge a formal parking ticket/clamp/removal fee appeal

If you don't agree with the council’s decision, you can lodge a formal appeal against the ticket with the relevant independent parking adjudication service.

The NTO will tell you which of the four parking ticket appeal services to write to (see above), and has information about how to present your appeal.

You will be able to opt for either a postal or personal appeal hearing. Adjudication service staff will then send you formal acknowledgement that your appeal has been received.

Await the verdict

If you've asked for a postal decision on your parking ticket appeal, you'll be notified of the week in which your parking ticket appeal is due to be decided. If you've asked for a personal appeal, you will usually receive at least 21 days’ notice of when and where this will be held. 

Adjudicators are independent legal professionals who will come to a decision after looking at information from both the person appealing the parking ticket and the council.

Download the free Which? parking guide PDF

To appeal an Excess Charge Notice (ECN) or Standard Charge Notice (SCN)

ECN and SCN appeals are dealt with by the council that issued the notice.

Write to the council

Write to the council within seven days of receiving the notice, explaining why the parking ticket is unfair or wrong. Include any evidence to support your case, such as receipts, witness statements or photos.

Some councils allow parking ticket appeals to be made online, so check the council’s website for details. The early-payment discount period will usually be frozen while your case is examined.

Appeal again

You should receive a written response to your parking ticket appeal within 14 days. If the council rejects your appeal, but you still don't believe you should have to pay the fine, you will usually be able to appeal again by writing to a more senior parking official. 

The response from the council will explain how to do this. However, ECNs and SCNs are not dealt with by the independent adjudication services, and some councils will only allow one appeal.

To appeal a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN)

FPN parking tickets are issued by police officers or police traffic wardens and are dealt with through the criminal justice system. The only official system of FPN parking ticket appeal is to opt to have your case heard in court and plead not guilty. 

However, some police forces do allow an informal parking ticket appeal, when you can write a letter explaining why you don't think you should have to pay the parking ticket fine. If this is possible in your area, information about where to write to will be included with the FPN parking ticket.

If you're allowed to, write to the Central Ticket Office address on the notice within 14 days of receiving it, explaining why you think the FPN parking ticket is wrong or unfair. Include any evidence to support your case, such as receipts, witness statements or photos.

If your informal parking ticket appeal is rejected

If your informal parking ticket appeal is rejected, you'll be asked to pay the original fine or opt to have your case heard in the magistrates’ court. If you do nothing, you'll receive a summons to go to court.

To opt for a court hearing, fill in Part III on the reverse of the ticket and return it to the address provided. 

You will then receive a summons and be asked to fill out and return a Plea and Mitigation form. You can use the 'mitigating circumstances' page to give additional information about your case, or explain why you are pleading not guilty.

Pleading not guilty to a parking offence

There will be an initial hearing, at which you will need to plead not guilty, and you will have to say whether you want to call any witnesses to the trial. You don't necessarily need to attend this hearing – it can be done by post.

The magistrate will then list your case for trial. You will be told of a hearing date which you, or your legal representative, must attend to set out your case in defence.

The actual trial will be based on the principle that you are innocent until your guilt is proved ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. At your trial you'll be given the chance to put across your case, call any witnesses to support it and present any evidence you have.

Await the verdict

Motoring offences are made up of numerous elements and the prosecution (usually a representative of the Crown Prosecution Service) must prove every element of the offence. 

If the verdict is guilty, you will be ordered to pay the parking fine and possibly court costs as well. A not guilty verdict means all charges against you will be withdrawn and you will not have to pay the penalty or court costs.

How to appeal a parking ticket on private land

As of 1 October 2012, drivers wanting to contest a parking ticket issued in a private car park can use the new independent appeals service entitled POPLA (Parking on Private Land Appeals).

The POPLA scheme is run by London councils, although it is available across England and Wales. Motorists in Scotland and Northern Ireland don't have a private parking appeals service.

An independent adjudicator will review evidence submitted by both the motorist and the parking operator and determine whether the parking charge should stand or not.

But there are a few catches:

  • Consumers must appeal the ticket to the car park operator first before they can go to the appeals service. There's a very short time window in which a parking ticket can be challenged - just 30 days. If a consumer attempts to appeal the ticket after this time the car park operator can dismiss the claim without having to consider it. The consumer will then be barred from going to the independent appeals service
  • The appeals service only applies to firms in the British Parking Association's (BPA) Approved Operator Scheme (AOS). Car parks should display signs to indicate this - a specific entrance sign that will help to further identify a BPA operator is currently in the pipeline
  • POPLA will not consider mitigating circumstances when making its verdict. This means that consumer appeals will only be upheld if the car park operator has broken the BPA’s Code of Practice or breached contract law.

Which? believes there is still too much uncertainty about the new private land system, and would like to see proper regulation of private parking in the same way as council-run parking, as well as an independent appeals scheme that considers mitigating circumstances.

More on this...

Other sections in this guide

  1. Overview
  2. Parking tickets: your rights
  3. Parking ticket enforcement
  4. How to contest a parking ticket
  5. Parking tickets: tips to avoid them
  6. Parking ticket appeal sample letters
  7. Parking tickets in Scotland and NI 
  8. Parking ticket FAQs