Posted by: wesleyjohnston | October 23, 2012

How to avoid getting a parking ticket (Northern Ireland)

Disclaimer! What follows below is an attempt to usefully summarise a 56 page document that has just been released by the DRD, setting out exactly when traffic wardens are and are not allowed to issue parking tickets. This is not an exhaustive discussion but is intended to highlight interesting points, and is not legal advice. All drivers should read the full document for the full advice. For information how to appeal a parking ticket, see the link above or visit


In 2005 the enforcement of most parking restrictions was decriminalised. Since then, traffic wardens in Northern Ireland have been provided by private companies on a contract basis, rather then being employed directly by the government. In October 2006 NCP won the contract, and they provided parking enforcement services (most obviously by red-uniformed traffic wardens) until the contract ended in 2012. The same company (now known as NSL Services Group) won a new contract which will come into force on 30 October 2012, and which will initially last until 2016.

To coincide with the new contract the DRD is engaging in a publicity campaign to make drivers more aware of how to understand parking restrictions, and how to avoid getting a parking ticket (officially known as a Penalty Charge Notice or PCN). In the press release on the subject, the “Roads” Minister Danny Kennedy points out that “Parking enforcement… is a vital element of traffic management in city centres. It reduces congestion, improves accessibility and increases road safety. It also improves availability of short-term parking spaces for shoppers and visitors and it helps to keep bus lanes, cycle lanes and urban clearways free for those who are entitled to use them” (emphasis mine).

(Despite parking enforcement being one of the most cost effective ways of keeping traffic flowing efficiently, it is a function that is very under-resourced and under-utilised by the DRD if the sheer number of cars I see parked illegally in Urban Clearways and bus lanes in Belfast is anything to go by. Let us hope that the new NSL contract sees more traffic wardens on the roads.)

The DRD also claim that their objective is not to raise revenue, but to prevent illegal parking in the first place. This is very sensible, since it is always far better to educate motorists so that they don’t offend, than just fine them when they do. Even more sensibly, the DRD have launched an education campaign along these lines. So drivers in the coming weeks may find an advice leaflet under their windscreen wiper explaining how to park legally and safely, and what to do if they do get a ticket.

They have also just issued a 56 page official document setting out the circumstances that will result in you getting a parking ticket. This is known as the Parking Enforcement Protocol and is available here. This is well worth a read, but I have summarised the key points below.


Cost of a Fine

Parking Tickets have until recently been £60, which is reduced to £30 if it is paid within 14 days, rising to £60. However, this rose to £90 in July 2012, reducing to £45 if paid within 14 days. This is a significant amount of money, so drivers ought to be motivated to avoid having to pay them.

Clamp and Tow

Until now, parking attendants have only been able to issue tickets to offending vehicles, but have not been able to actually remove the vehicle (unless the fine is not paid). This doesn’t really make sense, since it merely punishes the car owner but does nothing to resolve the actual issue, ie the vehicle is still causing an obstruction. From 2013, however, NSL will have the power to tow away vehicles parked on key routes, eg in bus lanes. This will presumably result in additional fees to have your car returned to you.

Parking on the Footpath

  • Parking restrictions that are indicated by paint on the road (rather than signs) apply to the entire width of the road, including the footpath. Some drivers believe that if there are double yellow lines, it’s okay to park their car entirely on the pavement. This is not true, and you will get a ticket for parking like this.
  • It is not permitted to park on the footpath at all on Urban Clearways. You will get a ticket if you do this, even if your car is entirely on the footpath. Urban Clearways are indicated by signs.
  • You cannot be given a parking ticket if you are parked on the footpath in situations other than the two case above. However, if your car is causing an actual obstruction the PSNI may be informed, and they have the power to take action against you.

Who Pays The Ticket?

It is the responsibility of the owner of the vehicle to pay the fine, not the driver. This means that if someone else gets a ticket while driving your car, you will have to pay it.

No Discretion

The Protocol requires traffic wardens to apply the rules fairly to all drivers. This means that people should not be unfairly targetted for tickets, but it also means that traffic wardens are not allowed to “let people off” if they feel sorry for them. So it is no use pleading with a traffic warden to overlook an infraction, because the wardens are not allowed to let people off as this would be unfair to another driver facing the same penalty. That said, the Protocol does clearly state that if the driver of the vehicle is physically present, they should give the driver an opportunity to move it before issuing a ticket.

Grace Periods

In pay and display car parks, on-street pay-and-display spaces, and spaces which have a maximum waiting limit (eg one hour) drivers will be given a ten minute grace period before a ticket is issued. For this reason, if you are given a ticket you should retain your pay-and-display ticket to provide evidence of the period you had paid up to. Blue badge holders will be given a thirty minute grace period if they are parked on double yellow lines (see below).

Double Yellow Lines

Contrary to popular belief, there are many circumstances where it is permitted to park on double yellow lines:

  • Loading or Unloading. If you are doing this, a traffic warden will observe you for 5 minutes (for cars and vans) or 10 minutes (for HGVs). If loading and unloading is not taking place continuously during this period, you will get a ticket. However, look out for a “No Loading” sign. If there is one of these, then loading/unloading is not allowed.
  • Alighting. It is permitted to stop to let someone get out of your car, but not to stay beyond the time this takes.
  • Blue Badge Holders can park on double yellow lines for up to 3 hours.
  • Certain types of vehicle are allowed to park on double yellow lines. These include council vehicles, emergency services, road maintenance vehicles, post vans and utility company vehicles.

However, note that blue badge holders, people loading/unloading vehicles, and people alighting are not permitted to park on double yellow lines within 15 metres of a junction. This catches lots of people out.

Careless Parking

  • Parked across two spaces. You can get a parking ticket if at least one wheel of your vehicle is in a different parking bay in a pay-and-display parking space. You can also get a ticket in a car park if you are not parked in a marked space, eg you’ve tucked your car in at the end of a row of spaces. Beware careless parkers!
  • Too far from kerb. You will get a ticket if you are parked on a street more than 50cm from the edge of the kerb.

Parking in specially allocated spaces

  • Disabled Spaces. You will get a ticket for parking in a disabled space without displaying a blue badge. Note here that the offence is not displaying a blue badge. If you own a blue badge but do not display it, you will get a ticket, and the fact that you can show that you own one will not result in the ticket being cancelled. So be careful – always display your blue badge.
  • Doctor / Coach Spaces. You will get a ticket if you park in a space marked “Doctor” or “Coaches” only. Blue badge holders are not permitted to park here either.
  • Taxi Rank. Unless you are a public hire taxi, you will get a ticket for parking in a taxi rank (indicated by the word “Taxis” painted on road) – as Stephen Nolan discovered a few weeks ago! Private taxis and blue badge holders are not permitted to park here either.
  • Bus Stop. You are permitted to park at a bus stop unless a box is painted on the road with yellow or white dashed lines containing the words “Bus Stop”, in which case you will get a ticket.
  • Pedestrian Crossings or Zig-zag Lines. You will get a ticket if you park across a pedestrian crossing, or on the zig-zag lines approaching a zebra crossing. Other than the usual (police, etc) exemptions, buses are also exempt if they are at a bus stop.

Bus and Cycle Lanes

  • Bus Lanes. You will get a parking ticket if you are found to be parked in a bus lane during its hours of operation. Even blue badge holders and people loading/unloading are not permitted to park in bus lanes. However, you cannot be given a ticket by a traffic warden for driving in a bus lane. This is a matter for the PSNI to enforce.
  • Cycle Lanes. You will get a ticket if you park in a cycle lane marked out with a solid line or traffic island. You cannot get a ticket if you are parked in a cycle lane marked with a broken line. Also, cycle tracks marked on footpaths cannot be enforced by traffic wardens. (However, note that if some other restriction, e.g. an Urban Clearway, is also in force along the road with the cycle lane you can still get a ticket for that reason – added 24 Oct 2012)

Pedestrian Zones

You will get a ticket if you are parked in an area indicated on a sign to be a pedestrian precinct (indicated by this sign). Blue badge holders may be able to enter these zones, but only if the sign specifically says so. The same applies to loading and unloading. If loading/unloading is permitted, you must be actually loading or unloading, otherwise you will get a ticket (see double yellow lines above).

Urban Clearways

Urban Clearways operate at certain times of day on key routes, as indicated on signs. Ordinary drivers are only allowed to park for up to 2 minutes to allow passengers to board or alight. Other vehicles can park on Urban Clearways: these include council vehicles, emergency services, road maintenance vehicles, post vans and utility company vehicles.

Summary: Park Safely and Enjoy Your Life!

Other Sources:



  1. I believe (but stand to be corrected) that they intend not to use clamping, so that the vehicle can potentially be moved before the towing lorry can arrive, solving the problem rather more quickly than in GB!

  2. What about motorbikes and parking on the footpath which many of us do and without causing an obstruction?

    • As far as I know, the law on parking is the same for motorbikes and cars.

  3. Is there any clarification regarding clamping by private companies e.g. car parks? Any information online seems to say it is banned in England, Wales, and Scotland, but not Northern Ireland, so it is hard to tell what the rules are!

    • Yes as far as I know the law here has not changed in line with recent changes in GB. From 2013 DRD will be towing away cars blocking Urban Clearways and bus lanes. Or so they say.

  4. I was at botanic Belfast, you have parking spaces along the bus lane so i pulled into the bus lane and let my Nan get out to go to the post office as she always does as i try to stay close so she can see me, now the guy that was unloading took up to parking spaces i asked if he was going to be long so i could use on he said few mins i said great, so i waited and the traffic warden came straight to me and said to move as am not aloud to wait in the bus lane i tried to point out that the guy in front was using to spaced and she said hes clearing unloading!, that point i said what about the cars behind me that are parked are they getting a ticked she then told me she was logging me in the system and i had 30secs to move or get a ticked so i pointed out that i was waiting for my Nan and that she cant walk to far and if i was to move or carry on driving round the block she would not see me in her own words TUFF move the car now, this point i drove off and went round the block few times i did not see her tell the taxi or the vans that were parked on the 2 yellow lines to move, what rights do i have if any?

    • Since I don’t know this specific location I can’t give you a definitive answer. However, I do know that parking in a bus lane during its hours of operation is an offence so it’s reasonable for you to be asked to move. In this case you do not have any rights, sorry! Anyone else parked in the bus lane should also get a ticket, but that would not be relevant to your specific case. Loading and unloading a lorry is also usually not permitted in bus lanes during their hours of operation, but again I don’t know the location so there may be some exemption in this specific location.

      • That’s correct. The parking spaces are doubly suspended in the morning rush – firstly, Urban clearway (which I believe does have exemptions for disabled persons and loading) from 8-9.30, and secondly bus lane (which does not) from 7.30-9.30. The short version is that we have no business in any bus lane during its hours of operation unless there is an entryway or parking space beyond the bus lane (as on the Lisburn Road or the Woodstock Road) that you can’t reach any other way.

        I have to say as a commuter, though, that I have very little sympathy for your situation. The signs are clear – during their hours of operation, bus lanes are reserved strictly for buses and cycles, and in many bus lanes, motorbikes and black taxis as well. Parking in them holds up buses, which holds up other traffic. The Botanic Avenue bus lane has been in effect for quite a few years now, and you only had to wait until 9.30am.

        Having said all that, if I were you I would be complaining to NSL that the traffic attendant wasn’t issuing tickets to the van that was loading. He has all day from 9.30 to make his deliveries without blocking traffic.

  5. Do urban clearways have to be marked with single yellow line? Or how far away does sign need to be I.e if not in clear view because its a few 100 yards away?

    • Hi Deborah. No, Clearways do not need to be marked with a single yellow line. It is indicated purely by the signs. As far as I know a “start of Clearway” sign is placed as you approach the section in question, and an “end of clearway” at the end of the section. All side road accesses should also have such a sign in case anyone joins the road between the two signs. If the Clearway is very long, reminder signs are placed, I think around every 400 metres. However the idea is that anyone who has driven into a Clearway zone will have passed the “start of Clearway” sign and therefore, if paying attention, ought to realise this before choosing to park in the section in question. (I am not an expert, so if anyone else wants to add to or correct this information please do so.)

      • Hi Wesley, you’re mixing up your clearways 🙂

        Urban clearways just have the yellow, black and white signs at intervals, with an “Urban Clearway End” sign at the end. There are no signs on side roads, but you can usually see that there is a next sign.

        Ordinary (rural) clearways ban stopping altogether except in an emergency, and any repeaters are a lot further apart. There are always signs on side roads for ordinary clearways.

  6. Andy Boal to the rescue as always! Thanks Andy.

  7. If a traffic warden has started writing a ticket but you move the car before they finish is the ticket enforceable?

    • Julie, I’ve looked at the rules but admit that I don’t know the answer. There are facilities for fines to be posted out (e.g., for bus lane infringements) so it would not surprise me if the same thing could be done for drive-offs. At the same time, if a driver is physically sitting in the car the traffic warden is supposed to give them an opportunity to move before starting to write a ticket.

      • In practice, if the driver is present and can be persuaded to move the car, the attendant won’t even start to write the ticket. The parking enforcement protocol doesn’t say what happens if they have started before the driver returns.

  8. I got a ticket because I was on an urban clearway outside my workplace I had pulled out to allow others out of the drive it shows the officer had allowed 1 min is this right??

    • The only grace period allowed on Urban Clearways is maximum 2 minutes to let passengers get in or out of the car. If passengers were not getting in or out of the car during the period it was parked then I think the ticket is fair enough I’m afraid.

  9. My son borrowed my vehicle and received a PCN before returning to Austrailian.
    I think it is unfair to expect me to pay for his offence.

    • It does seem unfair, but alas the law is clear – the owner of a vehicle is responsible for any parking fines. Perhaps you could ask your son to pay the fine.

  10. It is frustrating that the grace period does not extend across all situations. I received a PCN timed at 16:31 for parking on an urban clearway at the bottom of the Ravenhill Road, which started at 16:30. The parking attendants were walking away from the car as I returned. I didn’t want to start an altercation so took the ticket and appealed it instead as unreasonably harsh, but was rejected.

  11. Fined for parking in a loading bay after 7pm when all the shops were closed such a shame puts people off going into town for a night out.

    • And you know that just because all the shops were closed to the public that no premises in the area needed evening deliveries?

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