Since the high-profile legal case where residents in Barnet in London took their council to court over parking fees – and won –it has been raising questions with local councils as to what the impact of this legal precedent might be.
At the time of the Barnet case in 2013, the response has been that ‘the ruling would only impact issues relating to parking permits in residential parking areas’.
So the question is can income raised from parking charges be used in other budget areas outside running, maintaining and operating parking? The answer appears to be (broadly) that the “you can not spend money raised through car parking fees on anything else but running the car parking scheme”-argument only applies to on-street parking. They say the money made from off-street parking has no restrictions on what they can spend it on.
The subtleties of it are given in full below, but it’s worth bearing in mind that legal opinions are just that – opinions. It’s only when they are argued and ruled on in a court of law that they are definite.
Parking income from off-street parking can be used in other budget areas. However, parking income from on-street parking is restricted to the cost of enforcing parking, contributing to off-street parking provision and, if the provision of further off-street parking is unnecessary or undesirable, contributing to the following activities:
- the costs of public passenger transport services
- highway improvement projects
- environmental improvements
I think to understand the possible legal implications, it is important to differentiate between parking on a road and parking in a car park. In the Barnet case, the local council proposed to increase the cost of ‘On Street’ parking permits, from £10 to £40 for residents and from £1 to £4 in the case of visitors. A local resident, who happened to be a solicitor thought quite rightly that a small group of people were being asked to contribute disproportionately to council revenue.
Said resident brought about a judicial review, which has resulted in the stated case R(Attfield) v the London Borough of Barnet. The ‘R’ stands for Regina – The Crown and Attfield is David Attfield, the solicitor who brought the matter to law.
Bear in mind, this was relating to on street car parking and after some research I believe that car parks are entirely different for the following reasons.
Firstly, anyone can own a car park, unlike the public roads, which are owned by some sort of local authority in virtually every instance. Because any one individual or a business can own a car park, they are entitled to run it according to business principles and thereby make a profit. You or I could own a car park.
This principle seems so obvious and is obviously beyond any rational or sensible challenge. So, I contend that it would be quite perverse for a Local Authority to be subject to quite different legal principles in respect of car parks.
If Local Authorities were to be subject to such disadvantageous legislation as regards their car parks; it a very obvious that this would quickly be subject to legal challenge.
So, much as we may not like it, I believe that the Council can hike up charges in respect of their car parks and not be in a position of being threatened by a legal challenge and the position taken by a local business association is likely to fail.
However, I do believe that on street parking charges are another matter altogether and they must take the case on board, because this stated case now directly affects on street parking.
The question of the morale obligation a council has to its small businesses and residents well being is unfortunately not considered in law.