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Changes to notices about parking have been causing chaos in the Dartmoor National Park after motorists claimed that new subtle signs are not clear...

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Private car park companies (operators)

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Private car park companies/operators are in the main a facet of life in the more advanced and more densely populated countries where who can park where and when is a significant subject.

For example, we would be surprised to learn that there were any parking control companies in the People's Republic of Mongolia or Western Sahara; they both have exceptionally low population densities as does Britain's Falkland Islands.

In the United Kingdom the deepest roots of private car park companies are to be found in the horse and carriage era that had lasted for many centuries and were a form of property rights protection. Earlier generations of city police then were experts at telling coachmen where to park in crowded venues (such as near popular places of entertainment) as well as the art and science of stopping bolting horses.

During that non-idyllic period and the early days of the motor car during the late unlamented 20th century there were but few private park companies on account of:

  • Only the few rich people could afford a private motor car
  • The wealthy and powerful enjoyed privileges including unofficial immunity from certain laws

It was the entry of the Common Man to the world of private motoring that led to the set-up of regulations and rules with penalties; to put it bluntly, the hoi polloi were less respected. Also, when more people became motorists vehicle density on the roads rose and there also arose a problem over parking in the great cities of the United Kingdom.

Different rules applied in the public sector that Central and Local Government controlled. To the best of our knowledge the owner of private grounds had to rely on calling the constabulary in the event of a stubborn driver of, for example, an early Austin motor car.

The arrival of the wheel clamp from Denver, Colorado transformed parking control for private car park companies in England and Wales. The ancient doctrine of distress damage feasant was dredged up from the history of the Common Law to clamp motor vehicles. A remedy to address straying animals got transformed into a means of immobilising cars and other motor vehicles.

In the public sector parking charges soon became a money spinner for thankful local authorities and by and by individuals offered their services to do the same thing for private owners of land.

The first wheel clamps made their appearances initially in London streets and then elsewhere in England and Wales during the 1960s. Distress damage feasant provided the legal justification.

It was later that private landlords used wheel clamps and they became a frequent deterrent during the 1990s.

Private car park companies (operators) became staffed in the field by thugs with few if any scruples about extracting money from desperate motorists against a backdrop of public indignation headed by the powerful motoring lobby.

After electronic banking started the country abounded with tales about rough men frog-marching motorists to cash points and scandalously high release fees.

The Royal Automobile Club which is one of the two largest motoring societies in the UK (the other being the Automobile Association) commissioned experts to investigate ways and means of getting rid of the clamp.

Meanwhile, towing away to the car pound became used by public sector authorities and became, during Margaret Thatcher's premiership, a form of street entertainment.

Chris Elliott was one of the RAC's experts; he is both a barrister and an engineer. Dr Elliott found that, among other sins, the wheel clamp amounted to one private person 'punishing' another private person when the State monopolised punishment. He trounced the argument that the clamp release fee was a form of compensation for the 'loss' the landowner had supposedly suffered. If the presence of the vehicle constituted a 'loss' to the property owner, why does he perpetuate the 'loss' by clamping the vehicle?

Today we all live under the Lynne Featherstone MP piloted Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 that became law for parking matters on October 1 that year.

It outlaws:

  • The use of the wheel clamp
  • Towing away from private land

Public happiness about this is general. The dissenters are mostly out-of-work ex-clampers and their colleagues.

The vacuum this creates is ably filled by the Flashpark parking control system. Essentially, all that is required other than adequate warning signage is:

  • Access to the Internet and email
  • Possession of a digital camera and the means to download pictures therefrom into a computer

Flashpark the company used this during the age of the clamp and the tow and it worked brilliantly.

We are sure that since there are no patents for the future the Flashpark system will be emulated all over the advanced world.