One person’s ‘freedom’ is another’s nuisance: what Cator Estate parking tells us

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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

IMG00620-20120713-1426 (2)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.

A new letter from the Cator Estate Residents Ltd (the resident-owned management company) explains what the new law means in practice (you can read it here).

“The Cator Estate used to have a clamping system which deterred parking by non-residents,” the letter explains. “Unfortunately the government has now made  this illegal and we have to find another method or accept that, once this becomes generally  known, the Cator Estate will become a free car  park for any commuter and Blackheath visitor.”

“The only legal way we can stop this happening is to implement a Parking Charge Notice Scheme managed by a private car parking control contractor…. As from 29 April 2013 any vehicle parked on the Cator Estate roads, verges or pavements [without a permit] will be issued with a Parking Charge Notice of £100 (£60 if paid within 14 days).”

So a workable system where cars were clamped as a last resort, which served the interests of residents  and their visitors, has had to be replaced with a much more complex one, which means that those parking against the rules will still have to pay up to £100. The estate will still be patrolled by contractors in uniform, but they will now be issuing £100 parking tickets to offenders, and not putting clamps on cars where they have to.

Quite how this is “protecting freedom” is anyone’s guess.


One Response to One person’s ‘freedom’ is another’s nuisance: what Cator Estate parking tells us

  1. Pingback: After 16 years as a Labour councillor in Blackheath and Westcombe Park, Alex Grant says thank you and goodbye | Blackheath Westcombe Labour

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