Pavement parking makes it difficult for pedestrians to get past, particularly if they have young children or have disabilities. But sometimes motorists don't have a choice as parking on the street could mean their cars hold up traffic or block emergency vehicles.
Parking rules are already a minefield. To add to the confusion, only some parts of the UK are opting to ban pavement parking. Here’s what you need to know.
Is it illegal to park on the pavement?
It's illegal to park on the pavement anywhere in London, according to the Highway Code.
In most other places, pavement parking bans are enforced by the local council.
But they can charge you only if you’re parked on yellow lines or if signs say it’s not permitted.
If you’ve been caught parking on the pavement by the police, you could be charged with 'unnecessary obstruction of any part of the highway'.
But, according to the Living Streets foundation, they rarely take action.
That’s because the existing laws are unclear, and it can be difficult to prosecute.
Obstructing the road could mean drivers have to squeeze between cars, potentially causing damage to parked cars, resulting in car insurance claims.
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What are the changes to pavement parking?
Some of the UK’s nations are now rallying to stop parking on the pavement. But each country is at a different stage with their plans.
Parking on a pavement in Scotland
Scotland was the pioneer of launching a nationwide ban on pavement parking.
The Scottish government announced the ban in 2019. As the ban was nationwide, the government thought it would take 5 years to implement.
The ban has been delayed multiple times, much to the frustration of Living Streets who've been campaigning against pavement parking.
The organisation noticed that the appeals process wouldn’t start until the end of 2023. This means councils wouldn’t be able to penalise pavement parkers until the beginning of 2024.
Transport Secretary for Scotland Michael Matheson also said that the scheme would be delayed until 2023 because of the pandemic. This means the ban might not come into force until December 2024.
Now, Living Streets are campaigning to speed up the pavement parking ban and urging the Scottish government to:
Bring the ban into force no later than the end of 2023
Give councils strong guidance so they don’t exempt any street where pavement parking would negatively impact people with disabilities
Raise more awareness of the ban to change driver behaviour
Make sure every council can enforce the ban
Monitor the impact of the ban where it’s in force
Once the scheme is implemented, parking on any pavement in Scotland will be illegal. Any motorists caught will get a penalty charge notice (PCN).
Parking on a pavement in Wales
Now, local authorities in Wales should have the authority to crack down on pavement parkers. The new proposal formed part of Wales’s legislative programme for 2021-2022.
It’s slightly different to the ban in Scotland as it’s not an outright ban. The Welsh government says it doesn’t want to penalise people if they have no other choice but to park on the pavement.
By giving the responsibility to local councils, they can target hotspots and use their discretion to penalise pavement parking.
Parking on a pavement in England
In England it’s illegal to park on the pavement in London only. In some places pavement parking restrictions are enforced by signs, but there isn't a blanket ban on pavement parking.
If the ban did eventually cover England, the government suggested following Wales’s lead and let local councils tackle pavement parking.
The government has also suggested improving the system that councils use to make parking restrictions, as it’s time-consuming and labour-intensive.
The government ran a consultation on ways to solve the pavement parking issue in 2020. Since then, progress has stalled and currently the ban still only applies in London.
Parking on a pavement in Northern Ireland
Currently, there’s no blanket ban on parking in Northern Ireland.
At the moment, you’re not allowed to park on a pavement where there are yellow lines.
In built-up areas – known as urban clearways – pavement parking is banned. It’s also banned on yellow lines and wherever signs prevent it.
There's a paper on the Northern Ireland government website that outlines the problems pavement parking causes. This could mean a ban is at least being discussed.
Will there be a blanket pavement parking ban?
The Department for Transport completed a consultation exploring the best ways to tackle pavement parking at the end of 2021.
The report considers several proposals. Some involve boosting the existing approach and giving local authorities additional powers to combat problematic pavement parking.
However, it could lean towards recommending a total pavement parking ban. This would mean pavement parkers could be a hit with a £70 ban, every time they’re caught.
There's been no update on this since 2021. The last communication was when the department for transport said it was 'actively considering' a pavement parking ban.
It also said that:
“The pavement parking ban is a priority and we will publish the formal consultation response and announce next steps for policy as soon as possible.”
Why can't I always park on the pavement?
When you park on the pavement, you’re blocking part of the footway.
As a result, pedestrians might have no choice but to walk round your car via the road – putting themselves at risk.
The issue is particularly worrying for people who have a disability, are elderly or have young children.
Stephen Edwards, director of policy and communications at Living Streets, said:
“We’re regularly contacted by disabled and older people who feel trapped in their homes because there isn’t enough room on the pavement for wheelchairs or mobility scooters. ”
Pavements aren’t designed to be parked on, and over time the surface can become uneven or cracked, causing trip hazards too.
What will happen if I’m caught parking on the pavement?
You could get a PCN if you’re caught parking on a pavement where it’s not permitted.
You might get a charge that you have to pay within 28 days, which is usually reduced if you pay within 14 days.
This depends on your local council’s rules, though.
If you’re caught by the police, you could be charged with the 'offence of obstruction' and be given a fixed penalty notice.
What's the fine for parking on the pavement and can I appeal it?
If you’re caught by the council, the PCN is set by your local authority. You can expect it to be upwards of £50.
Alternatively, if it’s the police that spot your infringement, you could be charged up to £200 and get penalty points on your licence.
You can appeal a PCN if you don’t think it was warranted, by contacting your local council. Fixed penalty notices (FPNs) can only be challenged through the courts, which could be expensive.
What can I do about parking on the pavement outside my house?
It depends on where in the UK it is, and what the local rules are. If, for example, you’re in London, where it’s not allowed, you can call the local authority and ask if they can send a traffic warden to have a look.
But if you live elsewhere, unless or until there’s a blanket ban on the practice, you might find there’s little you can do. If your neighbour parks on the pavement, one of the few things you can do is talk to them.
It could be worse, a motorist could park on your private driveway - a situation the police can do little about.
How to stop cars parking on pavements
If it’s not illegal to park on pavements where you live, you have to rely on old-fashioned diplomacy.
Try talking to the owner if you can and explain why it’s causing you problems. They might not be aware of the problems they’re causing and find alternative parking. You could also try leaving a note on the car windscreen. Whichever approach you try, it’s important to be friendly, calm and polite.
How can I report pavement parking?
You can only report pavement parking if you live in an area where it’s illegal. If this is the case, you need to report it to your local council. You can find your local council's contact details using GOV.UK.