Parking Fine Imposed on Private Landowner Triggers High Court Test Case

A fine imposed on a householder for parking her Land Rover on her own land put the conflict between private ownership and public access to the road network in high relief and provided the subject matter for an important High Court test case.

For many years the householder had regularly parked her car on a strip of pavement outside her home. The strip, which she and her husband owned, lay between their front hedge and the road. She was incensed when a local authority parking warden put a ticket on her windscreen, but her appeal was rejected by a parking adjudicator. The penalty was also confirmed by another adjudicator on review.

In upholding her challenge to that outcome, the Court rejected the local authority's argument that the strip was deemed to have been dedicated as a public highway because members of the public had enjoyed access to it, as of right and without interruption, for 20 years or more. The reviewing adjudicator had made an error of law in concluding that such public access was not interrupted by the frequent presence of the couple's parked cars on the strip.

The Court found that the strip could also not be viewed as a road to which the public has access, within the meaning of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967. During each of the 13 years in which the couple had owned their home, they had parked cars on the strip about 200 times, thus regularly impeding public access.

Had it been necessary to do so, the Court noted that it would have found that any implied licence that members of the public had to access the strip had been inoperable on the day the ticket was issued, due to the presence of the Land Rover. The local authority was directed to cancel the parking ticket.