How to contest a parking ticket

  • Details of the appeals process and grounds for appeal
  • Make sure the signage and road markings are correct
  • Remember 65% of appeals are successful, so have a go

That yellow and black rain-resistant pouch with 'documents enclosed' stuck firmly to the windscreen of your car tells you in an instant that £60 will soon be leaving your bank account. It's galling, you could have used that to pay a third of your annual water bill.

You will, of course, be extremely cross when you get a penalty charge notice (PCN) for a parking infringement. After the initial anger you'll contact the appropriate authority and hand over your cash knowing full well that an attempt to contest the penalty will lead you into a minefield of bureaucracy that'll simply cause you more pain.

The stats, however, tell a different story. As many as 65% of appeals are upheld and the fines withdrawn, which suggests that if you do bother to fight your parking fine you have a good chance of winning. Around eight million parking tickets are issued each year in the UK but only a few thousand are appealed by drivers. The truth is many appeals are not even contested by local councils because a lot of the time they just want to clear a backlog.

So, before you pay you might want to contest your fine. Here's how:

The standard rate for a fine in the UK is £120 which will be reduced to £60 if paid within 14 days, but if you want to appeal you must first send a letter to the appropriate council explaining your reasons for challenging the ticket.

If your case is valid, or you are lucky, the council will withdraw the fine - but if it doesn't accept your arguments you'll get a 'Notice to Owner' form so you can make a formal representation. You'll have 14 days to make these formal representations where you spell out, in detail, why you are challenging the ticket.

Again, at this stage the council can drop the fine, or reject your appeal. If it rejects your appeal you'll get a 'Notice of Rejection of Representation and Appeal Notice' form.

You will then have 28 days to lodge your appeal with the Parking Adjudication Service (Parking and Traffic Appeals Service, in London). This is an independent body and will consider your case but you do need to be aware that the fine will increase by 50% if you fail in your appeal.

Grounds for appeal
There are ways of appealing most kinds of parking ticket if it was given unfairly or mistakenly, so your appeal will be successful if the following applied:

1. The signage and road marking are not correct
Under the regulations the signage must be clear, not hidden and must be within the required proximity. You might also want to check the lines. Does the single-yellow or double-yellow have a bar on the end (they need them) and if you parked in a bay, did it comply with the regulations? For example, pay and display, limited stay, motorcycle, doctor, residents and business permit parking bays should be marked by a white box of width between 1.8m to 2.7m. Any less, or more, and you have a case.

2. The details on the ticket are incorrect
If the registration number is wrong, or the time is wrong, then you also have a case, but if it's a trifling detail where the vehicle is described as 'grey' rather than silver, don't expect a successful appeal.

3. The council has not complied with regulations under the Traffic Management Act 2004
You will have a good case if the PCN or some other document did not contain the required information, or that the council did not respond to a challenge or responded too late.

4. You can also appeal successfully under the following circumstances:
- The PCN was not served
- That you weren't the owner of the vehicle
- The vehicle was taken without your consent
- The events alleged did not happen
- The vehicle was entitled to park
- Loading/unloading was taking place
- A passenger was boarding/alighting
- A valid disabled person's badge was displayed
- A valid pay-and-display ticket or permit was displayed
- The Traffic Regulation Order was invalid or illegal

However there are some arguments that won't hold water...

  • 1. Your ticket fell off the windscreen
    You will not have your appeal upheld if you claim that your ticket fell off the windscreen and was not displayed properly. It is your responsibility to make sure that it's properly displayed. However you might want to send the council a copy of the pay-and-display ticket because some councils do exercise their discretion and cancel tickets issued for this reason.
  • 2. You weren't the driver at the time
    You'll still be liable to pay even if you weren't the driver at the time. Your appeal will be successful if your car was reported stolen when the PCN was issued, however.

So, good luck: you might be one of the lucky 65% who can say that they took on the council... and won.