Car park signage ruling could impact builders’ merchants

Published:  27 May, 2016

Builders’ merchants could benefit from a landmark ruling by the Court of Appeal which states that visible signage can prevent unauthorised parking from becoming a legal right, according to law firm Gordons.

In May the Court of Appeal ruled that customers and suppliers of a fish and chip shop in Yorkshire must no longer park in an adjacent car park owned by the local Conservative Club. They had used the car park for more than 20 years, despite a clearly visible sign, which reads “Private car park. For the use of Club patrons only.”

The chippy had argued that this use could become a legal right after 20 years because it was “without force”, “without secrecy” and “without permission”, as is required by law.

However, The Court of Appeal ruled that the presence of a clear and visible sign was enough for use of the car park to be ‘forceful’ and therefore no legal right was acquired.

The judge also emphasised that a land owner should not have to go to court to prevent wrongful users of land from acquiring rights.

Richard Cressall, a property litigation solicitor at Gordons law firm, said: “This ruling highlights the importance of clear, correct signage in car parks and could potentially have an impact on hundreds of builders’ merchants.

“Any merchant with an easily accessible car park will not always know whether every car parked on their land belongs to a customer, but if they have clear and easily visible signage it should now protect them against any unlawful users acquiring rights.

“However, it is important to ensure signs in the right place, there are enough of them, and they say the right thing. Despite the Court of Appeal’s ruling on car parking, the customers of the fish and chip have been granted rights to walk over the forecourt of the Conservative Club because the signs only referred to use for car parking.”

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