Chiswick's Cowboy Clampers Run Out Of Town

Ministers outlaw the practice on private land branding it 'extortion' and 'theft'

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Wheel-clamping on private land is set to be banned for good after Home Office Minister Lynne Featherstone said that rules in England and Wales should be brought into line with those in Scotland, where clamping on private land was banned after a judge said it amounted to “extortion” and “theft”.

More than 2,000 existing clamping licences will be revoked under the plans for England and Wales, with towing away also outlawed, as ministers act to end the "scourge" of so-called cowboy clampers.

Removing cars parked without permission on private land, which can cost owners up to £400 to release, is said to be worth £1billion a year for the “cowboy” clamper firms. Ms Featherstone said, “I am delighted that our Government have made the decision to ban it outright.”

She said the proposals to ban clamping on private land, such as company or supermarket car parks, would be included in a new Freedom Bill to be introduced in November.

Landowners who want to protect their land should erect barriers, she added, and Police would still have the right to remove vehicles.

AA president Edmund King said, "An outright ban on wheel clamping on private land is a victory for justice and common sense. We have been campaigning for a ban against this legalised mugging for many years.

"Too many clampers have been acting like modern-day highwaymen for too long. "Many elderly and vulnerable people have been ripped off by these callous cowboys. Clamping has been banned in Scotland since 1991 without problems. We would also like to see restrictions on the companies that issue bogus tickets on private land so that these cowboys are also driven out of town."

In Chiswick motorists have fallen foul of aggressive clamping campaigns both on Power Road and at Bedford Corner.

A female driver told how she was clamped on Power Road whilst still in her vehicle. The 'gang' of men demanded £200 in cash before they would release her car. "It was terrifying," she said. "I had literally stopped for a moment to make a call to ask the person I was visiting to bring me out a parking permit when one of the men knocked on my window demanding that I pay him £200 to release my car or they would tow it away. I hadn't even turned my engine off."

The incident was witnessed by another couple who had also been clamped by the same group of 'heavies' as they described them. Although both parties paid the cash demanded, they have sought legal advice.

In November 2005 residents, business owners and customers have become unwitting victims of extreme new parking restrictions at Bedford Corner – so extreme in fact that car owners were clamped whilst parking on their own premises. Signs were erected at numerous but rather obscure points around the privately owned land and early the following morning the clamping company arrived and clamped everyone in sight, including those legitimately parked.

Every person who spoke to at the time complained about foul language and ‘bullying’ tactics used by Parking Control Services, the company employed to clamp vehicles.

The land was subsequently developed into private parking spaces available for rent. To date not a single lease has been taken up.

August 18, 2010