Lynne Featherstone’s knee-jerk proposal to ban wheel clamping may not be the populist measure she anticipated. She has failed to appreciate that thousands of ordinary residents living in blocks of flats with car parking spaces are victims of illegal car parking. And as anyone involved in the management of parking knows, the only serious deterrent to illegal parking is the threat of clamping. The issuing of penalty tickets is not an effective deterrent because they are very difficult to enforce, as highlighted recently by BBC Watchdog.
Lynne Featherstone says that landowners can erect barriers around their property to control illegal parking. This might be fine for well-heeled companies, the landed gentry and government departments, but it displays a dismal ignorance of how this can be achieved in blocks of flats.
The FPRA have pointed out to the Home Office that
1. Residents and leaseholders of blocks of flats may not be able to install barriers because the terms of the lease will not allow them;
2. If the lease does allow or if it is amended to allow (a very complicated and costly process) the installation of barriers, the cost of installing and maintaining them will fall on the ordinary leaseholder, which includes pensioners and the not-so-well-off. Will the government contribute to this cost?
3. Barriers are restrictive and inconvenient to residents, visitors and trade vehicles interfering with the free movement in and out of where they live, work or visit.
FPRA Committee member Stephen Guy adds
‘Lynne Featherstone’s understanding of car clamping is depressingly naive. She seems to just think that it’s a black and white issue of drivers as victims, when in fact victims are also residents whose lives are plagued by illegally parked cars. She naively thinks ‘landowners’ can just erect barriers, having no understanding that ‘landowners’ also includes ordinary people – leaseholders – in blocks of flats who could be forced to pay for the installation and management of barriers, if the lease allows it. And most likely the lease will not allow it, in which case there is little that those residents can do to effectively keep out unwanted cars. This will bring misery to a lot of people’
The FPRA argues that the real problem is rogue car clampers, and the solution is to regulate the system, not ban the practice. Therefore the FPRA is calling on the Home Office to work with us to come up with proposals to provide robust regulation of the wheel clamping industry, and avoid this rash and ill-conceived piece of legislation.
A Home Office spokesman said:
"Wheel-clamping causes motorists significant distress and anxiety. It is clear from the very high numbers of complaints that we receive that motorists often feel that they have been clamped unfairly, often without even knowing that they have parked where they should not, and they are often charged exorbitant amounts to have their car released.
"To regulate the clamping industry is an expensive and complicated solution to the problem – for example, we would have to have put in place arrangements to hear appeals where motorists believed they were clamped unfairly. We estimated that it would cost £2m to set up the system and public funding would need to have underwritten the system once it was in place.
"Banning clamping is a better response. Landowners and parking enforcement companies will need to turn to other means of parking control – just as they have done in Scotland since 1992. This will depend on the land involved and how the landowner wishes to manage it – but other methods of control include ticketing or parking barriers."
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