Much trailed in the press this morning, the formal announcement finally arrived in my RSS reader.
“End of the road for cowboy car clampers” screamed the headline.
Sounds good – clamping down (hur!) on the cowboys who do much to ruin the industry and let formally licensed companies carry on subject to sensible regulations. A win-win, as the motorist gets sensible regulations, while private land owners retain some protection from trespassers.
Oh, hang on – that isn’t what is planned.
The government plans to make it totally illegal to clamp cars on private land (public land will still use clamping) and also make it illegal to remove a car seemingly dumped on private land.
Now, if motorists were being unfairly clamped on property that is advertised as a car park for all to use, then yes, I would agree that there is a dire problem that needs urgent action.
But that isn’t what happens.
What actually happens is that motorists are trying to avoid paying parking fees by dumping their cars on other people’s private property without even bothering to ask permission.
That is a totally different situation – and I am slightly at a loss to understand why the person who owns the land should be banned from removing “rubbish” that is dumped on it.
I used to work in a retail store in Slough that happened to have a private car park at the back, onto which we had a back door. We had a Gentleman’s Agreement that customers could use the back door to collect heavy items they had purchased.
However, people would treat the space as a free car park, leave their cars there, go shopping then pop into our shop to buy something much later. This meant the legitimate users of the car park were either unable to use the spaces they had rented, or in too many cases, were blocked in by someone else dumping their car in the way.
As you can imagine, after a while the tenants got annoyed and the landlord brought in clampers who clamped every single car without a permit, even if only there for a few minutes. We scrapped the back-door collection and put up HUGE warning signs.
Still the motorists would presume that they could use the private property as a free car park – simply because they didn’t want to pay to use the official car parks that the council had built in the town centre.
The clampers were a huge pain in the neck as they were so aggressive – but there was a serious problem with illegal parking that needed fixing. A licensed clamper with a sensible attitude would have been better.
In another example, I used to live near a football stadium on a semi-private estate. When football matches were being played, the residents used to set up a rosta to guard the main road entering the estate and block anyone entering who wasn’t visiting residents. Why?
Because motorists saw empty private car parking spaces by the blocks of flats and would dump their cars in them. Obviously that then meant the person off out shopping in the morning could drive home and find their own personal car parking space was now occupied by persons unknown.
With the new proposals, we will have a situation where private property owners are having their land trespassed on – but will be unable to evict the miscreant.
If you throw rubbish onto someone’s drive, then they are allowed to pick it up and dispose of it. But if that piece of rubbish happens to be in the shape of a car – suddenly that right is removed from you.
Yes, the clampers had got out of control – but the solution is not to ban them, but to regulate them and set sensible limits on the fines and conditions they impose. Otherwise, we end up with a carte blanche for motorists to trespass on private property with impunity.
In conclusion – if you are a motorist, use an official car park – don’t presume that the car sized plot of empty land is de-facto a car park for your use. It could be and indeed, almost certainly is, someone’s private property.