Wheel clamping on private land banned

* New laws to fight cowboy clampers * Now an offence to clamp on private land * Laws come into effect today...

Wheel clamping on private land banned

Motorists will save up to 55 million a year after new laws designed to drive cowboy wheel clampers out of business came into force today.

Under the Protection of Freedoms Act, it is now an offence to clamp, tow, block-in or immobilise a car without lawful authority on private land.

Previously, rogue operators have been responsible for clamping around 500,000 vehicles a year on private land, and with an average release fee of 112, this adds up to a 55 million bill for motorists.

Announcing the move last year, Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone said there had been cases of drivers being frog-marched to cashpoint machines or left stranded when their cars were towed away.

Now, any clamping firm found guilty of breaking the law will be liable to an unlimited fine in the Crown Court or up to 5000 at Magistrate level.

The ban applies to private land, and wont change existing traffic enforcement by local authorities and police on highways. For example, the DVLA will still be able to clamp or tow away untaxed vehicles, while VOSA retains its powers to prevent the use of un-roadworthy vehicles.

Other changes to vehicle laws include extending police powers to remove cars parked on private land, while unpaid parking ticket charges can now be claimed from the registered keeper of the vehicle, as well as the driver.

An Independent Appeals Service funded by the British Parking Association (BPA) will also be established to allow motorists to appeal tickets issued on private land by a company that is a member of the BPA's Approved Operator Scheme.

Local Transport Minister Norman Baker said: 'These new parking arrangements deliver a fairer legal framework for motorists and landowners, while getting rid of the indiscriminate clamping and towing by private companies for good.'

Emma Butcher