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Private car park regulations

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The Statute and Common Law of England and Wales together support private car park regulations, provided they are within certain legal guidelines.

The basic law of those two countries underlines that ownership rights over land and buildings are vested in the lawful owner as long as he does not infringe the rights of others, does not create a private or public nuisance or worst to other members of the community and stays within the criminal law.

Although that is the general background of private car park regulations there have been fast and furious changes in the English and Welsh parking on the private grounds protection industry. This naturally impacts private car park regulations.

The Lynne Featherstone piloted Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 has made sea changes to private car park regulations as part of its wide range of improvement of life in England and Wales.

Before the passing of the Act and its coming into force on 1 October, 2012 the position was and is that private landowners can control and manage their own land. Persons parking on the land can therefore enter into an implied contract with the landowner and/or his agent whereby he pays for the parking facility provided to him. This is teaching of the Law of Contract.

One of the requirements of Contract Law is that both parties possess knowledge of the terms of the contract. Therefore, the private car park regulations have to, in and of themselves, be within the general law of the land and be communicated to the motorist for the contract to have any chance whatsoever of being upheld in a court of law.

In the professional business car park environment there is the highest stress placed on the communication of the conditions to the drivers. Entry to the parking area is sometimes controlled by a flexible barrier set-up or else there is an Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system going that allows the operator to know the vehicle's registered keeper (from the Government's Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency), the vehicle's time of entry and its time of exit.

Private car park regulations are such that an infringement is called a Parking Charge Notice (PCN), not to be confused with (confusingly) the Penalty Charge Notice (also PCN!) that local authorities and Central Government impose on wrongdoing motorists on public land.

Points to note include:

The DVLA will release the 'registered keeper' of a vehicle when 'reasonable cause' is shown under the Road Vehicles (Registration & Licensing) Regulations 2002; in any event the DVLA restricts such releases to the membership of the British Parking Association that maintains stringent standards.

It is essential that the charge is 'reasonable' in the eyes of the law and reflects the 'loss' the owner suffered by the vehicle being there. Therefore, excessive amounts of money are rejected by the court.

There is a great deal else to be said about private car park regulations but this has scratched the surface and points to the extensive legal and other aspects of this fast-developing subject.