Ed John explains the changes in the law for wheel clamping coming into force after 1 October 2012

Q. I read somewhere that clamping will not be possible after 1 October 2012. Is that correct?

Currently landowners can have vehicles which are parked on their land clamped or towed away by an individual or company holding a valid “vehicle immobiliser licence” issued by the Security Industry Authority (SIA).

From 1 October 2012, part of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 will come into force to effectively ban all such activities and create a new offence of unauthorised vehicle immobilisation. The new legislation, under the sub-heading “protection of property from disproportionate enforcement action”, makes it an offence to clamp or tow away any motor vehicles from private land.

The offence is punishable by a fine, currently £5,000 in a Magistrates Court and unlimited in the Crown Court. Notably, the prohibition only affects “motor vehicles”. The immobilisation and removal of bicycles and other non-motorised forms of transport is unaffected.

Clamping and towing will continue to be permitted where there is statutory regulation of parking, which includes:

  • public highways,
  • local authority controlled or owned car parks, and
  • certain other land where parking is subject to legal controls (such as some ports, railway stations, airports and river crossings).

The good news is that the Act does provide a new right for private landowners to recover unpaid parking charges from the driver or, if not known, the registered keeper of a vehicle. The right to enforce only arises 28 days after the day on which notice of the unpaid charges is given to the driver or (if the driver is unknown) the registered keeper of the vehicle.

The forms of notice to the driver and the registered keeper are prescribed in some detail by the Act. They must, amongst other matters, include details of the vehicle, the parking period and the land on which it was parked, the charges and describe how payment is to be made. Landowners should note that failure to adhere strictly to the statutory notice requirements and procedures renders the parking charges unenforceable.

Q: So, what do I do about abandoned cars on my land after 1 October?

Any private landowners who wish to have a vehicle removed from their land after 1 October 2012 could contact the relevant local authority for assistance. As far as self-help remedies are concerned, the Act does not appear to prevent such remedies so long as the intention is not to prevent or inhibit removal of the vehicle by the owner. However, it is not clear how far the provisions go and private landowners should consider carefully the implications of the new law before embarking on any removal of cars abandoned on their property.

Many landowners will be disappointed that the ability to clamp or tow away abandoned cars from private property has been removed as it was a powerful tool when used effectively.