/ Motoring

Rogue wheel clamping ends – but what will take its place?

A law has come in to ban wheel clampers from clamping or towing vehicles on private land in England and Wales. It’s safe to say that opportunistic clampers won’t be missed, but will it put pay to dodgy parking practices?

So, instead of getting clamped, cars parked improperly on private land could be issued with a parking charge. Motorists will then have a period of time to pay up.

After that, a car park operator who is a member of an Accredited Trade Association (ATA) will send a demand for payment by post, after accessing the owner’s details from the DVLA. The new law makes the owner of the vehicle responsible for paying the charge.

So it’s the end of the road for clampers. Surely no-one will miss a group of people who have been widely condemned for their intimidating and exortionist behaviour?

Who will miss the clampers?

But if you’re a land-owner, you might well mourn the end of clamping. Say you’re a small business with a couple of much-needed parking spaces, or live in a flat with a private parking space. Clamping may have been a much more effective deterrent than parking tickets in keeping selfish drivers from parking where they shouldn’t. In a Convo about this ban last year, commenter Richard said:

‘I am now faced with motorists parking on my forecourt/front garden without any way of removing them. The police have never been interested in removing them. Why should I provide “free” parking to irresponsible motorists who simply want to avoid paying the councils parking fees?’

Clearly selfish motorists are a problem, but what about rogue car park operators? Could the new law simply mean that cowboy clampers turn to cowboy ticket issuers instead? It’s certainly possible. After all, not everyone who operates a private car park is a member of an ATA.

Non-ATA members can’t access DVLA records to send out reminders by post, so they’re more likely to demand instant payment. And rogue operators could attempt to issue bogus tickets on land where they have no right to be. Commenter John H is glad to see an end to clamping:

‘It is absolutely right that clamping is banned; nobody should be deprived of the use of their vehicle until they submit to extortion because of a minor traffic violation.’

Give us proper regulation

The whole issue of curbing cowboy parking operators while protecting land-owners against unauthorised parking remains a mess.

What we need is proper regulation of the private parking industry. Making all private car park operators sign up to a government-endorsed code of practice would be a great start. And while the government has agreed to an independent appeals system for motorists who want to contest parking charges, it only applies to companies that are members of the British Parking Association. It really needs to apply to all car park owners.

Have you had any bad experiences with clampers? Or have you found them a useful deterrent for your own private spaces?

John Helfgott says:
5 October 2012

As an owner of a property close to a busy town centre, Hospital & Football Club, we have had posts fitted with a padlocked Chain to prevent unauthorised parking on our land. Drivers would have bolt cutters and cut the chains to park.(everyone keeps bolt cutters in their car don’t they?). Only when we introduced clamping dis this prevent illegal parking on our land. Time will tell if the new ticketing system will be a valid detterent.

So you had posts, chains and padlocks to keep your private land clear of troublesome illegal parking? Fair enough if it’s private land.
But then you say your parking problem only stopped when you introduced clamping?
You must have had some pretty determind illegal parkers if they went to the trouble of removing your chains and padlocks.
So you didn’t want then on your land? I can understand that.
However your remedy was to clamp them in place on your land where you didn’t want them in the first place? And if these people had the kit to remove your chains and padlock I wouldn’t think a clamp was too much bother?
Or was it all opened up and a way to simply take money off people upon clamp removal.
Securing private land is fine, but opening it up and using it as a money making trap really isn’t.

Not saying that was your intention but some reading your comment might think that was the case.

I sympathise with the owners of private land and with residents and workers who are entitled to use a private car park. They need some sort of deterrent to unauthorised parking but clamping is not the right answer – especially because it immobilises the vehicle in an unwanted position. This is particularly detrimental for people who have an allocated parking place in a private car park and cannot therefore just occupy somebody else’s if there own is blocked.

I believe the government should have gone further and made any penalty demanded by any body that is not a member of an ATA unenforceable in law and any attempt to detain a vehicle if the driver refuses to pay an instant fine should prima facie be a case of extortion or demanding money with menaces. Property owners wishing to avail themselves of the enforceability of penalties via the DVLA system, and using a body that is a member of an ATA, should be obliged to put up sufficient clear and effective warning notices saying that unauthorised parking is prohibited, what the penalty is if enforcement action is taken, and stating the days and hours during which enforcement takes place. Any parking ticket should also be as detailed as a local authority penalty charge notice and fully explain the payment arrangements and appeal rights. Furthermore, the operatives who execute enforcement action on private property should be required to make full notes in their recording devices of the time, vehicle make and colour, tax disc details, and tyre inflation valve positions in order to substantiate that they were on the spot when they logged the violation and to prevent erroneous enforcement, all such data to be submitted if any appeal by the vehicle owner is contested. Local authorities enjoy immunity from liability in the event of an appeal being upheld; it might be worth rescinding that immunity in the case of private operators who have a bad track record of unjustified enforcement action so that they became liable to pay costs and/or compensation if a penalty is cancelled on appeal.

I feel particularly strongly that proper warning notices should be mandatory. Two major supermarkets near me have obscure signs near their entrances, placed where drivers cannot possibly take note of them if they are concentrating on negotiating roundabouts, pedestrian crossings and the movements of other traffic. These notices take a whole paragraph to say that parking is only allowed for up to three hours, that there is a penalty of £75 if caught overstaying, and that wheel-clamping may be used for enforcement . There is no obvious verifiable mechanism in place for recording the arrival time of vehicles or whether they might have exited and returned within the period. I won’t name the companies because I suspect all major stores and shopping malls do it somewhere or other.

As far as I’m concerned it is a disaster.- I have a small forecourt and garage – but people still park in front of my house so I can’t use them particularly at the weekends – So I have to pay to park . The Local council nor the police are interested in my problem. It could be cured by yellow lines but the council refuses to implement them. Before I could get someone to move them – now I can’t.. If they park in my forecourt I paint their windows. I have two notices Im by 60 cms (for the metric obsessors) either side proclaiming “NO PARKING” – they still ignore them. It is ludicrous that I could be fined for parking virtually outside my house because someone has blocked access to my forecourt. As I said the local council are not interested.

I’m glad they’ve banned clamping. England has put in place the lessons learned from Scotland.

I’ve never been clamped, probably because I have not parked on private land without permission.

While something needed to be done about rogue clampers, I feel sorry for those who have to put up with people parking on their property. If everyone was considerate and respectful, we would not have a problem.

Previously one could park in NHS hospital car parks without paying their unfair charges, as any “fines” were unenforceable under English contract law. However, I understand that private parking companies, including those operating NHS car parks, can now pursue vehicle owners for “fines” for unauthorised or unpaid parking under Schedule 4 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, the same act that outlawed private wheel clamping.