Want to park? That will be pounds 10,000

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The Independent Online
HUNDREDS of homeowners are being charged up to pounds 10,000 for the privilege of parking their cars outside their houses, writes Christine Webb. Thousands more can expect an unwelcome bill as local councils begin to exploit an obscure legal ruling over the status of common land made more than 70 years ago. The move has been described as "highway robbery" by critics.

At least six councils are already slapping hefty charges, often up to 10 per cent of a house's value, on owners for the simple right to drive across common land to reach their homes. But many more of the 300 authorities that own common land in England are expected to follow suit.

Councils have seized on an Appeal Court ruling six years ago that prevented a double- decker bus crossing common land and disturbing a residential area in Surrey in order to reach its depot. That action, brought by a local common- preservation society in Horsell, near Woking, succeeded after lawyers found that since 1925 it has been a criminal offence to drive a wheeled vehicle over common land without permission of the owner.

The fee is usually imposed once a house changes ownership as estate agents alert clients to the danger they may incur a bill after they move in.