Clampers accused of ‘legalised robbery’

A PARKING enforcement firm has been accused of “legalised robbery” for fining drivers a staggering �200-a-minute after clamping them – just weeks after the Government promised a crackdown on clampers.

In just one morning’s work the company City Watch Parking Enforcement immobilised more than a dozen cars and vans on the Hadleigh Road industrial estate in Ipswich and demanded fees of up to �1,100 to release the vehicles.

One angry courier, who stopped for less than five minutes, found he had been clamped and was forced to use his credit card to pay an astonishing �1,180 demand to free his van.

The four clampers, all wearing stab-proof vests, demanded a parking fine of �80, a wheel clamp release charge of �465 and a tow truck call-out of �565 – plus a �70 storage charge even though David Wood’s Mercedes van wasn’t impounded.

The shocked delivery driver had been delivering a package to an electronics firm on the estate when the clampers struck.

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“There was no room on the firm’s forecourt so I stopped in the road, grabbed the package and ran up the stairs,” said 45-year-old Mr Wood, who is married with an 18-year-old daughter.

“I was inside the building for a couple of minutes at the most but by the time I got back outside my van was clamped.

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“They told me I had to pay �1,180 to get the clamp removed. I was staggered – but I had dozens more deliveries to make so I had no choice. I found the clampers to be very intimidating – they said if I didn’t like it I could appeal and told me to look up the details on the internet.

“The whole incident has left me feeling shaken up – I had to use my overdraft to pay them and it’s a lot of money for a few minutes’ parking.”

Another driver from UPS claims he was clamped as he was actually in the back of his van sorting out deliveries outside a bed warehouse on the estate.

After several heated exchanges police were called but advised clamped motorists that they were on private land and it was civil matter.

Outraged businesses on the industrial estate have complained to the management company that runs the estate.

One managing director of a firm on the site said: “If what they are doing is within the law then I think it is legalised robbery.”

A car parts firm on the estate even put out its own home-made signs warning customers about the clampers.

One of the workers said “People were away from the vehicles for just a few minutes but by the time they got back the clampers had swooped.

“There are just two three-foot signs fixed to a post with other signs at the entrance to the estate – and repeater warning signs that used to be all over the estate have been taken down.”

The notices warn drivers they must have a valid parking permit and if not any vehicle parked on the road or which causes an obstruction will “be issued with a wheel clamp”.

It goes on: “Such vehicles will be immediately immobilised and removed and impounded without further notice.”

The estate is managed by a local property firm Lynden Property and a spokeswoman admitted: “We received a lot of calls from businesses on the estate on the first day the new parking company took over.

“We are now taking legal advice because we believe they may have breached the terms of their contract.

“We do not receive any revenue or income from the clamping firm. We gave them a contract because under the terms of our public liability insurance all roads on the estate have to be clear of traffic.

“Parking on the road is not allowed but our foremost responsibility is to our clients on the estate not City Watch.”

A spokesman for City Watch, who operate from a PO box number in Enfield, North London, said: “We will not be making any comment. Our duty is to protect our clients’ interests and we are holding talks with them to sort things out.”

In June the Home Office announced it was looking at proposals to abolish private clamping in England and Wales – 20 years after the practice was declared illegal in Scotland.

Under the proposals firms involved in the �250million-a-year industry would only be allowed to immobilise cars if they had a contract with a local authority.

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