ON THIS DAY 1993: Car park clampers could be banned

Archive front page: EDP 24 Feb 1993. Photo: Library

Archive front page: EDP 24 Feb 1993. Photo: Library - Credit: Archant

As part of a new daily online series we look back on what was making the news on this day in Norfolk. Today, we look at the Eastern Daily Press front page of February 24, 1993.

Private wheelclamping could be outlawed under wide-ranging new proposals unveiled by the Government yesterday. The Home Office action to consider curbing the clampers is a victory for motorists who spoke out in the EDP against 'intimidating and aggressive' operating practices.

A ban is one of six options announced by the Home Office minister Michael Jack in response to mounting public pressure.

Another possibility is the introduction of compulsory licensing for all the clamping firms - an option most favoured both by Norfolk Police and by the company that provoked the complaints from the Norfolk drivers.

The other options are:

• Statutory regulation of the clamping industry.

• Statutory licensing of land which wheelclamps may be used.

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• Clarification of the civil law.

• The introduction of good practise guidelines and self-regulation of the wheelclamping industry.

Supt Malcolm Goodson, head of Norfolk Police traffic division, said a combination of new rules might be necessary to protect the rights of the motorist as well as those of private landowners trying to prevent unauthorised parking.

'The views of everyone involved will not easily be satisfied by one single option alone, and a combination of measures may well be necessary.' He replied.

'But certainly the principle of statutory licensing would be a step in the right direction.

'It is very encouraging that this document has been published.'

Nationwide Parking Control, the Wigan-based firm that operates on about 50 sites in Norwich and others in Yarmouth, says it is keen to see the law on clamping clarified.

The firm is already talking to Norfolk police about the possibility of setting up local guidelines and training schemes for operators, proposals welcomed yesterday by Supt Goodson.

Nationwide spokesman Phillip Bell said: 'We welcome anything which clearly lays down the law so everyone knows where they stand, although obviously we would not want to see a total ban.

'My preferences would be a statutory licensing system, so that companies have to maintain certain standards in order to continue operating.

'That would be good for the public, because if a company failed to meet those standards it would lose it licence.'

Nationwide carried out an assessment of its Norwich operators after the EDP published a catalogue of complaints against the men who fit the clamps.

Operators were accused of intimidation and aggressive behaviour, and readers condemned the £65 release fee as extortionate.

One woman reported being followed home at night by two men demanding cash for removing a clamp, and shoppers said they were watched as they parked by two operators who failed to warn them and then clamped their cars. As a result of the campaign Nationwide was sacked from one city centre site, in St Georges Road, owned by the Norwich and Peterborough Building Society.

Launching the Home Office consultation paper, Mr Jack said:

'The Government recognises that some motorists suffer abuse at the hands of the wheelclampers.

'I am particularly concerned about the threat to personal security where motorists may be stranded without their vehicles late at night or in isolated places.

'But private landowners can also suffer inconvenience because of unauthorised parking on their property.

'Any case for intervention must strike the right balance between the interests of the motorists and landowners.'

Many believe England should adopt the same rules as Scotland, where wheelclamping on private land was outlawed last June after a High Court ruling that it was extorting and theft.