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Car Park Chaos: The Laws on Parent & Child Parking

I’m sure many of you have experienced ‘parent parking rage’ when going to the supermarket.

Picture this… You pull into a car park, children in tow, and head straight for the parent and child parking (if there is a dedicated section). It’s great. It’s dedicated parking that gives you more leeway when it comes to opening car doors, shimmying tantruming toddlers in and out safely, and situating the pram safely whilst you grab your shopping bags.

Safer, easier, just generally perfect for harangued parents.

But alas, the last space is taken just as you’re pulling up… And out comes Edith, child free and buzzing to have nabbed such a great space. No disabled badge in sight (those with badges are legally entitled to park wherever they need). Off she skips into the shops leaving you fuming and with no choice but to park in a less safe space, and be stressed out trying to safely get the kids out without them dinging the door of the horribly parked car next to you.

This video by very accurately sums up the issue…

So, what is the explicit law when it comes to misuse of parent & child parking? What can we do about it?

There is a lot of confusion over whether parent and child parking is legally enforceable, or whether people misusing these spaces can be fined for it…

Currently, it is unfortunately NOT illegal to park in a parent and child space without having young children with you. 

However, supermarkets DO have the power to fine anyone seen to be misusing these spaces. It all depends on who controls the carpark and it varies between the supermarkets. 

Tesco:  An external agency will issue a parking charge notice (PCN) to anyone wrongly parked. Parking charges ARE legally enforceable, contrary to some social media rumours!

Lidl:  Lidl do not currently have the facilities to monitor the use of parent and child parking bays through staffing. They strongly rely on the honesty of customers to park where they should be.

Aldi:  If a customer has noticed someone misusing a parent and child bay they are encouraged to report it to the store manager as soon as they see it. However, they are unable to enforce it as there are limited staff in store to deal with the situation.

Sainsbury’s:  Parent and child parking bay misuse is handled by the store itself and fines would be issued by the car park operators if you’re caught misusing these spaces.

Asda:  An external agency monitors Asda’s car parks. Regular checks are conducted to enforce parking restrictions. If someone has parked incorrectly they will be issued with a parking charge.

Morrisons:  If someone is discovered parking incorrectly they are politely asked to move again, or a sign is placed on their windscreen pointing out the parking regulations.

If you visit a supermarket and spot a parent and child space being misused, report it immediately to any parking attendants you can spot, or the customer service desk. If unhappy with their response, contact their HQ and complain. It is worth noting that people with disabled parking badges can park in these spaces without a problem.

Why do parents get so frustrated?

If you’re a non-parent and feeling a little nonplussed about all the fuss, or perhaps a parent who rolls their eyes at the drama that ensues when it comes to parent and child parking, then here’s some insight that could give you more perspective.

  • It isn’t a case of distance from the shop and parents just being ‘lazy’ – it’s the fact that these spaces give parents more room to safely get children out of the car without causing damage to other cars. Cars these days tend to be bigger, and spaces smaller – the ‘back in the day we didn’t have these spaces and survived’ argument is easily invalidated by this.
  • With the law changing to make rear facing required for longer, these spaces are more needed than ever as it is harder to get a child in and out of a rear facing seat, unless it is a spinning seat.
  • The spaces give a child space to stand or sit in their pram without being too close to passing traffic, so from a safety aspect it’s incredibly frustrating when people who do not need these spaces park in them. This includes people with kids in the car who LEAVE them in the car to dash into the shop alone!
  • It’s also the principle of them being a courtesy for parents with children – people who park in them without having children with them (other than people with disabled passes when there are no disabled spaces left) can seem uncaring. Some parents have told us that they feel that it is arrogant to feel that you’re above this with no regard for others.

Fundamentally, it all boils down to thinking of others.

Fair enough if it’s a quiet time of day, with plenty of parent and child spaces available and you just need to dash to the cash point – I’m sure most reasonable individuals could see that as a non issue. Also, heavily pregnant women without children with them certainly have a strong argument and most parking agencies would take this into account! However, generally it just smacks of being inconsiderate – if you don’t have a child that you need to safely get out of the car, then you simply do not need to park in a parent and child space – with the exception of those with blue badges, of course.

Parents who feel aggrieved over this aren’t being dramatic or making mountains over molehills. We just want our babies to be as safe as possible.

Love from Katie & Team BBY. Xx

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