In a bid to address safety concerns and as a measure for easing congestion during the school run, St Gregory’s Catholic Academy in Staffordshire is to introduce a parking charge for parents to drop their children off at school at a purpose built fifty space car park on site. A parking permit said to total approximately £45 a year will help to fund the initiative including the initial build cost as well as the ongoing maintenance and warden controlled parking.

What are the possible implications?

This suggested permit can be thought of as a licence from the landowner (the school) to the licensee (the parents) to park in the car park in return for a fee which would be the cost of the permit.

Firstly, any such agreements should be documented in order to reduce any potential for misunderstanding. However, it is crucial for the school that the licence agreement is not instead construed as a lease. A lease creates a legal right in the land and a contractual relationship between the parties. A licence on the other hand is a mere personal right and the distinction between the two can have significant consequences.

The key risk of the agreement being interpreted as a lease is the security of tenure protection this could confer: the right of a tenant to occupy the land after the lease expires. This protection is not afforded to licensees and therefore a licence provides much more freedom and flexibility for the school to alter or end the agreement.

A lease has three distinguishing features: exclusive possession, for a fixed length of time and in consideration of a fee. To ensure the agreement is a licence, the fundamental concern is ensuring exclusive possession does not arise. With this in mind, the licence granted to a parent should grant a non-exclusive right to park in any one of the allocated bays.

The wording of the licence is key to direct the behaviour of the parties but it should be remembered that the label given by the parties to the agreement is not conclusive. Overall, it is how the parking scheme works in practice which is of paramount significance.  Thus a careful approach must be taken by those considering entering into an agreement of this nature.

Final Comment

The traffic problem St Gregory’s faces is by no means an isolated issue. The success of their proposed solution will be of interest to those who experience similar congestion problems. For those who are looking for a way to ease funding pressure, a similar system could also be seen as a source of potential income. Although the idea has received a largely positive reaction from the surrounding community and parents, the legal implications of such a plan must always be considered.