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Parking enforcement

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Most readers of these words for whom the United Kingdom is home will have most probably seen notices displayed on the parking areas of private property communicating the possibility of clamping on motor vehicles parked without permission.

This parking enforcement situation is about to change – fast.

The clamp has been used on a large scale in Britain since 1998 and has had a tempestuous history. The ‘understanding’ has been that some species of implied ‘contract’ is extant between the unpermitted motorist and the owner of the property.

This is a matter of basic contract law. To be enforceable in law, a contract has to have three elements:

For example, a shopper entering a self-service store such as Sainsburys is bound by contract law as regards his purchase and ditto the unhappy unpermitted motorist in a totally different context.

With regard to the shop, the presence of, say, a loaf of bread on the shelf constitutes an ‘offer,’ specifically an ‘offer to treat.’ When the customer takes the loaf from the shelf and puts it into his basket it amounts to provisional ‘acceptance’ of the ‘offer.’ When the customer presents the loaf to the staff member at the check-out till he is now making a solid ‘offer’ to the company. When the staff member processes the transaction it is ‘acceptance’ of the ‘offer’ conditional on payment of the ‘consideration,’ which happens to be the price. When the customer pays the money, he is making a firm ‘acceptance’ of the price. When the cashier accepts the money the contract is fulfilled and the property in the bread passes from the chain-store to the customer.

In parking enforcement, the warning notice displayed prominently in an appropriate place constitutes an ‘offer,’ specifically an ‘offer to treat.’ If the motorist parks nevertheless that constituted an ‘acceptance’ of the offer with the stated ‘consideration’ in the form of the ‘fine’ as written on the notice.

Should the motorist refuse to cough up that amounts to not paying the price agreed, a bit like ‘doing a runner’ at a restaurant. That is the theory.

Hitherto, and up to the time of writing but not for much longer, the clamp has been the chosen method of immobilising a vehicle until the owner pays the charge.

This has led to enormous anger in the British motoring community and the LibDems are right now piloting a Freedom Bill through Parliament that will outlaw the clamp.

The landowner can, if he wishes, consider various sorts of physical restraint on the motorist to stop unauthorised parking on his property.

We have noted the following seven types of physical restraint:

  1. Rising bollards
  2. Swing gates
  3. Barriers
  4. Electric gates
  5. Parking posts
  6. Using private security firms
  7. Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR)

Their shared feature is great initial and continuing expense. Rising bollards, for example, can cost hundreds of pounds just to buy; they then have to be professionally installed by experts and the cost of subsequent repairs consequent to resulting collisions between vehicle and bollard are high. Electric gates are more pricey still both to buy and then to install and maintain. Security firms result in higher wages and salaries expenses in the company’s or private individual’s accounting general ledger. ANPR is really highly costly to, first, set up and, secondly, to maintain. It is only for major corporate entities, and similar.

In the wake of the approaching wheel clamp ban, expected to become active and enforceable law during 2012 the question arises as to how the ordinary man or woman with a modest property holding and the smaller company can prevent unauthorised parking within the law and quickly and easily.

The World Wide Web is one answer, possibly the answer.

One innovative company has created a method of deterring unpermitted parking non-physically and entirely within the law. This methodology has the property owner taking an identifying photograph of the vehicle in question in its setting with, preferably, the warning notice included.

The enforcement company then communicates the charge to the registered owner via the DVLA register it is authorised to use.

The property owner and the parking enforcement company share the money received from the motorist.

For more details about this, do take a look at www.flashpark.co.uk.

Parking issues in the United Kingdom are about to change rapidly, deeply – and soon.