On this day in history : 16th May 1983 – The Metropolitan Police Force begin to clamp illegally parked cars – in the ‘Central London Wheel Clamp Experiment’….
Between its introduction in May and mid-November 1983 – 22,430 vehicles had been clamped, giving a gross revenue of £431,418…. When it was first introduced in the Knightsbridge area of London it proved popular with residents – who were finally able to claim their parking spaces back from those who were using them without authorisation…. There were problems that needed ironing out, such as when tradesmen and service engineers needed to park in order to carry out their work….
From the late 1980s local councils began to introduce stricter rules around parking….as a result drivers began to look for places to leave their cars where the traffic wardens wouldn’t find them…. Residential and private property became a target…. Understandably the owners of such properties were not happy….but the supply and maintenance of prohibitive equipment, such as barriers, proved expensive…. Wheel clamping, being self-funding, was an easy and often lucrative solution….it would effectively cost a landlord nothing to call out a wheel clamping company – and sometimes a commission would be paid to the property owner….
From 1990 onwards a steady rise of wheel clamp operatives was seen across the whole of the UK – with sometimes questionable practices…. However, the clampers did not always get things their own way….some motorists resorted to using bolt cutters or even angle grinders to remove clamps – meaning the operators lost not only the release fee but their clamp as well….
One of the best known wheel clamps used in the UK is the ‘London Wheel Clamp’…. Its designer, Trevor Whitehouse, filed for its patent in 1991 – originally it was to be named the ‘Preston’ after his hometown…. In the beginning it was used on private land but was introduced on public roads under the ‘Road Traffic Regulations Act of 1991’….and the wheel clamp became notorious…. The first areas to use it were 33 boroughs in London – hence the name change….
For many, especially those who had experienced having their car clamped, the practice became extremely controversial…. In 2012 the ‘Protection of Freedom Act 2012’, criminalising some wheel clamping on private land, came into force on the 1st of October…. It prohibited clamping in places such as supermarket car parks and effectively made it an offence for a private individual or company to act on its own behalf and have a car clamped…. Scotland had banned clamping and towing away in 1992….
It is still legal in the UK in some instances, such as by the police, DVLA or local authorities….and you are allowed to clamp your own car to prevent it from being stolen….