CCTV cameras and a two-tier penalty system will be used under new parking regulations that come into force across England and Wales today.
The new rules, which are part of the Traffic Management Act 2004, will allow local councils to use video footage to hand out fines where it is deemed ‘impractical’ for traffic wardens to issue tickets in person.
Traffic wardens, who will be renamed civil enforcement officers, can also record offences and send penalty charge notices (PCNs) to drivers by post - to catch those who speed off to avoid fines.
Under the new regulations, parking fines will be divided into bands: £40 or £50 penalties will be issued for less serious offences such as overstaying on a parking meter, and £60 or £70 penalties for more serious offences, such as parking on double yellow lines. In London, serious offences will incur charges of up to £120.
The government believes the new rules will make life better for motorists. Transport minister, Rosie Winterton said: "Parking rules exist to help beat congestion and improve road safety. These regulations will help make parking enforcement fairer, clearer and more open."
However, motoring organisations believe issuing tickets by post and using video footage will increase the number of unfair and incorrectly issued tickets. The British Motorists Association says the new rules have "potential for complete chaos." While the AA says drivers delivering, dropping off passengers or nipping round cars obstructing the road, as well as bona fide disabled Blue Badge holders, could find themselves facing a penalty even though they didn’t break any parking rules.
"We need to get parking enforcement into proportion," argues Edmund King, the AA’s president. "A car may stop for legitimate reasons such as dropping off a passenger or making a delivery. If the car has driven off, the space is clear for another car to use – job done, surely.
"Some local authorities have lost sight of the original aims of parking enforcement, which was to keep traffic flowing, warn selfish drivers, punish blatant offenders and keep legitimate use of car parking spaces ticking over. Drivers will feel that issuing tickets by post is just an extension of ‘open season’ on the motorist."
However, the good news is that the appeals process is also being reformed. Anyone who feels that a PCN has been issued unfairly has the right to appeal and have their case heard by an independent adjudicator at the Traffic Penalty Tribunal, which replaces the National Parking Adjudication Service.
More than 60% of appeals are successful but many motorists don’t realise that they have the right to have their case heard by an independent judge. Appeals can take place in person; by post or by telephone and an online service will be launched later this year.