The law of unintended consequences is already taking its toll on Blackheath’s Cator Estate, where a new ban on the clamping of cars on private land may paradoxically make it more costly for people who have parked their cars wrongly, and less easy for local residents to enforce sensible parking restrictions.
The coalition government’s Protection of Freedom Act, which came into law in May 2012, makes it a criminal offence for a private person on private or public land to immobilise a vehicle (e.g. by clamping or obstructing), or to move a vehicle, with a view to denying the owner access to it.
The Act also included several sensible changes to the law about fingerprints and DNA profiles taken from persons arrested for or charged with a minor offence, which will now be destroyed following either a decision not to charge, or acquittal.
But the Act’s ban on clamping of cars on private land, which may also seem sensible on the face of it, has also caused a number of problems. It is not just cowboys who clamp cars on private land – sometimes, on non-adopted roads, it is the only way of making sure that parking is not a free-for-all.
The Cator Estate is a good example: a few yards away from Blackheath station, parking restrictions have been in place for years to prevent its streets becoming a free car park for rail commuters. As the roads are not adopted, the residents there cannot rely on council controlled parking zones as on other nearby streets.
While there may not be much sympathy for the clampers, clamping has for many years been the only way the residents can discourage persistent offenders from parking on their streets for free and using the station or the shops in Blackheath Village nearby. Most of the Cator Estate’s residents have never wanted to live in a “gated community” sealed off from the outside world (the estate is crisscrossed with pedestrian rights of way and it has two council housing estates and a primary school, Brooklands, within its boundaries). But having some parking controls, as with all roads near railway stations in this part of London, is the only way of ensuring that residents can park easily outside their homes. Read more of this post