Car Parks – A Grey Area? Private Parking & The Law

by Emma Flood Curated Media on March 23, 2016

One of the most commonly misunderstood areas of the law is that which pertains to parking. Two recent news stories have drawn attention to parking and the law, both raising important misconceptions about the law in the public eye. Are parking fines enforceable? Can you challenge a parking fine? Who can use parent and child spaces? The law of private parking is mainly dictated by contract law, meaning that the rules change from venue to venue. This makes the law something of a grey area in the minds of the public. This post looks at a recent case drawing attention to contract law, parking and the grey area.

Can Pregnant Women Park in a Parent and Child Space?

One recent parking incident dominating the news was the case of a woman who was 9-month pregnant receiving a £70 fine for parking in a parent and child space in a local Asda store. Asda has since apologised and cancelled the fine, however, it does highlight a grey area, and an overlooked technicality in the contract between car park users and car park operators. The agreement for use of a private parking space is a matter of contract law and thus, in theory, the parking space owner may dictate exactly who uses the space so long as it is not contrary to any other area of the law, such as discrimination. Whilst is perfectly reasonable to allow only parent’s with small children to use certain car parking spaces closest to the store, the terms of use for doing so  must be clearly displayed, including penalties for those breaking the rules. Parent and child spaces are not only closer to the store, but are also normally designed with extra space around the perimeter to allow for parents to get their young children from the car, and any items such as car seats or prams.

The question arising from the Asda incident is two-fold: whether pregnant women qualify as being a ‘parent with child’, under the contract of the private car park or whether it is implied in the contract that pregnant women may use the space designed to facilitate  family use of the store. In terms of the first question, it could be argued that a heavily pregnant woman is technically a parent with a child, just not in the way the average person assumes the term ‘parent and child’ is to be interpreted. However, there is a much stronger case for the argument that it is implied by the contract, that pregnant women should be able to use such car parking spaces. They require the extra room surrounding the space for the same reasons as a parent with a child does and arguably are using the space in the way it was intended. It is most likely that shops and other locations with parent and child spaces have simply not thought about specifying this use for the space and as such the interpretation may be one which falls under the ‘offacious bystander test’. The test developed in Shirlaw v Southern Foundries [1939] 2 KB 206, dictates that a term may be implied if, in the hypothetical situation a bystander had suggested the term be included, at the time the contract was negotiated, it would have been obvious to both parties that the term should have been included.

Whilst this incident never went to court for discussion, it drew great attention from the media, with the public outrage further highlighting that it should have been obvious that the right of heavily pregnant women to use a parent and child parking space is an implied term of the parking contract.

Emma Flood Curated Media

Emma Flood Curated Media

Legal Content Writer and Marketing Assistant at Curated Media
Emma Flood is a first class law graduate based in Scotland. Legal Content Writer and Marketing Assistant at Curated Media, Emma and the team write bespoke legal content for law firms in Scotland and across the UK and can help you make the most out of the Internet through effective content marketing. Tel: 0141 811 0286 to find out more.
Emma Flood Curated Media

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