When your car can be clamped

Depending on whether you park on private or public land, there are different rules around whether you can legally be clamped or not.

Wheel clamping and towing on private land is banned in England, Scotland and Wales.

But the same law doesn't apply in Northern Ireland.

In Northern Ireland you can be wheel-clamped by private companies operating on behalf of local authorities.

There are some exceptions to the no clamping on private land rule though, where bylaws give landowners the right to clamp and tow, including at railway stations, ports and airports.

Police and local authorities can clamp wheels and tow vehicles on private land.

Government agencies such as the DVLA and Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) can also do the same with unroadworthy or untaxed vehicles if:

  • The vehicle was untaxed and on a public road, even if you had a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN)
  • or if you were on a private road but you didn’t have a SORN.

Your car can be clamped if you’ve parked incorrectly in a public space.

What is private land?

Privately owned land includes car parks, such as those at retail parks, whether or not you have to pay in order to park there. It doesn’t include local authority-run car parks.

Your parking rights on private land

If you receive a parking ticket or are wheel clamped while on private land - for example, a retail park, hospital, supermarket or housing estate - and the ticket doesn't name the police force or council that's issued it, it's likely to be from a private company. 

This type of parking ticket is known as a Parking Charge Notice - Penalty Charge Notices can only be issued by the police or a local authority. 

The car park operator is entitled to pursue you for a parking charge for contravening any rules it has displayed in its car park. 

But the charge should be proportionate to the normal advertised costs of parking or to the losses caused to the company by you overstaying in the parking space.

Unfair parking tickets

It's worth noting that a Parking Charge Notice is not a fine and cannot be imposed upon you. But a private company can pursue you through the court for payment.

If you think the charge is unfair or you have a mitigating reason for refusing to pay it - such as ill health or vehicle break down - you can contact the operator or landowner to explain why you're refusing to pay.

Although the parking company is likely to make a fuss, refusing to pay won't damage your credit rating. Neither can the parking company send bailiffs to your house to collect the charge. 

The company can only enforce the charge by taking the time and expense of taking court action against you in the small claims court. 

Disproportionate charges

If you admit you overstayed in a parking space but the charge is disproportionate, you can try sending the landowner the money you think is fair and covers the cost of your overstay.

Many motorists have reported this to be a successful way of settling a parking charge on private property. 

Realistically this approach is only worth considering for charges in excess of £100. 

Alternatively, use our step-by-step guide to contest an unfair parking ticket on private land.

Appealing a ticket

As owners of private car parks can set their own rules, unfair practices are more common. But signs or notices stating the rules relating to the car park must be clearly and obviously displayed. 

If you're issued with a parking ticket in a private car park and you weren’t made aware of a particular restriction, you can appeal. 

Appeal to the operator

You must first appeal to the car park operator and follow the operator's internal appeals process. 

If your appeal is unsuccessful, you can refer your challenge to the Parking on Private Land Appeals service.

Appeal to a trade association

POPLA will only hear appeals against car park operators that are members of the British Parking Association (BPA). 

If your car park operator is not a BPA member, check to see if they're a member of the Independent Parking Committee (IPC). 

In order to ensure the best outcome from your appeal, you should collect evidence, such as photos and the original ticket, to support your claim.

Look at our how to appeal a parking ticket on private land page for a step-by-step guide to appealing your ticket.

Affiliation to a trade association

Car park operators must be members of an accredited trade association in order to access DVLA data on any customer contravening their parking rules. 

You can check if your parking company is a member of the BPA Approved Operator Scheme (AOS) or if they're a member of the IPC.

If a car park operator is not an affiliated member, they won't be able to obtain your details from the DVLA. 

So, if you contact the company to complain about a parking ticket, you are inadvertently providing them with your details which means they could then pursue you to pay the parking charge.

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