Until late 2012 some local authorities aimed to generate significant income by clamping and towing vehicles away. Yet clamping a vehicle for overstaying time was contrary to the proper purpose of parking enforcement, which is to maintain availability of parking spaces.  Clamping an over-stayed vehicle merely exacerbates the existing situation by perpetuating the very contravention purported to have offended the enforcement authority.

Towing has frequently been disproportionate to the parking contravention. The aim of some councils which actually set targets for clamping and towing has been self-evidently more about revenue generation than sensible parking management.

The Department for Transport “Operational Guidance to Local Authorities: Parking Policy and Enforcement”  states the following in relation to clamping and towing:

Para. 8.88: “The Secretary of State is of the view that it should only be used in limited circumstances such as where the same vehicle repeatedly breaks parking restrictions and it has not been possible to collect payment for penalties, primarily because the keeper is not registered, or is not properly registered, with the DVLA. Where a vehicle is causing a hazard or obstruction the enforcement authority should remove rather than immobilise. Immobilisation/removal activity should only take place where it gives clear traffic management benefits”.

Para. 8.89:  “Powers should not be used randomly and authorities should draw up guidelines in consultation with the police. Immobilisation and removal guidelines should consider the:

Ÿ  Inconvenience that immobilisation causes drivers

Ÿ  Potential obstruction or loss of parking space that results

Ÿ  Effect of immobilisation and removal on public perception and acceptance of CPE .”..

Para. 8.91:  The decision on whether to immobilise or to remove a vehicle requires an exercise of judgement and must only be taken following specific authorisation by an appropriately trained CEO. The immobilisation/removal operatives should not take the decision. Vehicles should not be immobilised or removed by contractors unless a suitably trained CEO is present to confirm that the contravention falls within the guidelines”.

Para. 8.92:  When a vehicle is parked where parking is permitted, authorities must not immobilise or remove in the first 30 minutes following the issuing of the PCN, . .”

Para. 8.102 & 103:  “CEOs should be aware of special considerations in respect of valid Blue Badge holders and vehicles with diplomatic plates”. and  “Vehicles displaying a valid Blue Badge must not be immobilized and, as a general rule, should not be removed.”

NMAG endorses these recommendations of the DfT and the Secretary of State, but wants to see them extended to bailiffs levying on behalf of local authorities (when acting as their agents. Too often bailiffs arrive at a dwelling and even before speaking to the vehicle’s keeper wrongly clamp the vehicle it and then demand not only the basic fee but an additional fee for removing the clamp.  Bailiffs sometimes even remove a vehicle unnecessarily and automatically charge a recovery fee.  There are many instances when a subject vehicle is actually a necessary tool for the owners livelihood which renders it immune from confiscation.

NMAG wants clear guidance, if not regulation, that bailiffs should be prohibited from clamping or removing vehicles without explicit written authority provided by their commissioning local authority.


Schedule 4 to the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 prohibits the clamping of vehicles on private land as of 1st October 2012.

This has mercifully ended the some-times criminal racketeering activities of Private Parking Companies in their formerly-prolific off-highway robbery practice of clamping and towing away vehicles as a means of demanding extortionate parking charges.

There does remain serious defects in the private-company enforcement of parking conditions on private land but clamping is not now permissible.


(See also Bailiffs and Private land parking)

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