Parking rules and restrictions

Whether you like it or not, there are rules on when and where you can park on UK roads, as we explain here.

Parking ticket on a car windscreen

There are 38.6 million cars registered in the UK, which goes a long way to explaining why it can take for ever to find a parking place.

Frustrations creep in when you’ve been circling the same block looking for a gap, but throwing caution to the wind is definitely not the answer.

Here are some commonly asked questions about parking rules and regulations:


Can I park on residential streets?

Unless there’s a sign saying otherwise, you should be able to park on a residential street. This is providing you’ve not stopped on white, yellow or red lines and aren’t blocking pedestrians from using the footpath.

Note: using your hazard lights to park illegally is still illegal.


What happens if I overstay my time on a time-limited street or in a public car park?

Rules were introduced in April 2015 that allowed drivers a 10-minute ‘grace period’ if they overstay their paid-for parking time.

But this only applies to regulated street spaces or car parks run by councils. There are no grace periods on private car parks.

So, you could still be fined even if you’re just a minute or two late in returning to your car.

Bear in mind that the grace period doesn’t apply if you’ve not paid for parking. In other words, you can’t just rock up and park in a registered bay and plead ignorance.

You might get nabbed without buying a valid ticket.


Can I park on single yellow lines?

You should be okay to park on a single yellow line if the corresponding road sign doesn’t prohibit parking when you’re there.

If it does, move on, unless you’re dropping off or picking up and only going to be around for a matter of minutes.


Can I park on double yellow lines?

Where possible it’s best to avoid parking on double yellow lines. But yes, you can usually stop to offload or pick up heavy goods.

But, unless you have a valid Blue Badge, you could be asking for trouble by parking on double yellows. If, for example, someone slams into to you, you might have problems claiming on your car insurance.

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Can I park on red lines?

Red lines, or red routes were introduced in the 1920s. They’re designed to stop people parking their vehicles on busy roads in city centres and clogging up the nation’s arteries.

If you see a double red line, don’t even think about it. If you see a single red line, look for road signs as you might be able to stop there outside of restricted hours.


What are the rules about Blue Badge holders?

Blue Badge holders can usually park on yellow lines, in certain circumstances, providing their badge is clearly displayed. Government guidelines state:

“Blue Badge holders may park on single or double yellow lines for up to three hours but in general not where there are restrictions on loading or unloading – indicated by yellow kerb dashes and/or signs on plates.”

Loading restriction marks run across the kerb at right angles to the road.

Double yellow marks on the kerb mean no loading at any time, while single yellow marks mean loading is restricted at certain times. This should be shown on nearby signs.


Is it illegal to park in a disabled bay in a supermarket?

Parking in an official council-run disabled bay could result in a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) being issued. But doing so in a privately run car park, such as at a supermarket, is more of a grey area.

Operators might ask motorists who wrongly use disabled bays to move and they can also issue fines.

But these can be harder to enforce than PCNs – not least because the Blue Badge system doesn’t officially apply in private car parks.

Nonetheless, drivers who abuse the disabled bay provision in private car parks could face significant penalties and the threat of legal action if they refuse to pay.


Is it illegal to park opposite a junction?

You’d face a £50 to £100 penalty for parking within 30 feet (10 metres) of a junction. The obstruction might cause an accident, so it’s not worth it.

Even if it does mean puffing your way a few extra steps to the chippy.

Leaving your car close to a junction makes it difficult and dangerous for unsighted drivers to pull out from or turn into the side road.

Pedestrians could also be put at risk because of the restricted view this type of inconsiderate parking causes.


Is parking free on bank holidays?

Not all parking is free on bank holidays. While you might think that Sunday rules, where they exist, should apply to a Bank Holiday Monday, this isn’t always the case.

Unless the sign expressly says that restrictions don’t apply on bank holidays, you should assume they do.

In case of local authority car parks, you could check the relevant section of the council website in advance. They should say if regulations are suspended at any particular time.

Any council that enforces parking rules on bank holidays is likely to have at least some traffic wardens working on those days to issue fines if necessary.


What happens if I don’t pay a parking fine?

This depends on who issued it. If you fail to pay a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) from the local authority within 28 days, the fine could be increased by 50%. The amount of the fine is often reduced by 50% if you pay within 14 days.

If you don’t pay after that, the issuing authority could take legal action to recover the money. This might involve a court order and, if necessary, bailiffs.

If your parking ticket is a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN), typically issued by the police for more serious offences, failure to pay could lead to a criminal prosecution. This might then result in a larger fine as well as having to foot the bill for court costs.

If your parking fine is imposed by a private company, they might take court action in order to recover what they think you owe them. If you disagree with a private parking ticket or the level of fine, you can challenge it.


Can I appeal a parking ticket?

If you genuinely feel that you were wrongly given a ticket, then it might be worth challenging your PCN.

Far from being a standoff, if any of the following apply you might  have grounds to challenge the ticket:

  • You believe you were parked correctly

  • The parking signs or road markings were unclear

  • There was no clear way to pay or the payment machines were out of order

  • You weren’t driving when the ticket was issued

  • You couldn’t get back to your car

  • Your car broke down

  • You were only just out of time.

It can’t be stressed enough how important it is to get some evidence to support your claim. Take a snap of the scene, out of order payment machines and so on, on your phone if you can. It could make all the difference.


What’s the nearest you may park to a junction?

The Highway Code states motorists should not park “opposite or within 10 metres (32 feet) of a junction, except in an authorised parking space”.

While the Highway Code isn’t the law, it could be used to support decisions made by the police or other officials responsible for parking enforcement.

For example, if you park within 10 metres of a junction, a police officer might issue a ticket if they believe you’re causing an obstruction. Their case could be given some support by this section of the Highway Code.


Is it legal for my car to be clamped?

Wheel-clamping by companies on private land has been outlawed in England and Wales since 2012.

Until that point, many private parking companies had clamped vehicles they considered to be illegitimately parked – at the significant expense and frustration of motorists.

However, some organisations, including the police, local councils and the DVLA, can still clamp cars on private land as well as on the public highway.

This might be because a vehicle has no tax or insurance. Your local council also has the right in some circumstances to instruct bailiffs to clamp your vehicle.

Clamping on private land has been an offence in Scotland for more than 25 years. 


How do I apply for parking permits?

Road markings may be used to create parking spaces for residents, typically in flats near town centres or other popular parking spots. To park your car in one of these locations, you’d usually need to apply for a parking permit.

There are three types of parking permit:

  • Resident permits

  • Visitor permits

  • Visitor-only permits

These are limited to two resident permits and one visitor permit per property.

It’s worth noting that some properties might not be entitled to a permit, as sometimes restrictions apply. Your local council should have more information on these restrictions.

If you’re illegally parked in a residential area during the hours of operation you could face a penalty charge notice