This post is only relevant and important to the people of Lewes in East Sussex.
On Sunday 15th June, a company called Guardian Parking Management descended on a private piece of land at Eastgate Wharf and clamped ten cars which had parked there in spite of warning signs indicating that they would be clamped. (?!)
When I arrived, Norman Baker MP who is often seen at the nearby boot-fair was frantically dialling someone on his mobile phone and a crowd of about 50 people had gathered. Two Guardian Parking Management Vans were parked as well as a police car.
“They’re clamping everyone.” I was told. ” Don’t stop here!”
By the time I had parked and returned, Norman was talking into his cellphone and this time I was told , ” The papers are coming, we are trying to get the Telly people and isn’t it disgusting! Oh yes, the clampers have had their tyres slashed. Tee Hee!!”
All the reports that I have read of this incident contain the usual mélange of vitriolic humbug and half-truths: ” Legalised mugging”, ” I was there for five minutes”, “I’m disabled” , ” We’ve been parking here for 20 years” , “We’re on a Pension” , ” I didn’t see the signs.”etc.
Sound-bite from Norman: “There is a need to have a greater say over private parking companies – both the amount they charge and the way some of them operate.” Quite.
How would you like it if we all came and parked in your front garden, Norm? Oh…Private Property is it?
Cheval Properties, the managing agents were quoted in one paper as the “owners” of the land. They are NOT the owners. The reporter wrote that they had not responded to requests for a statement. It was also reported that Guardian Parking Management, who had clamped ten cars, “refused to back down”.
In the interests of balance and fair play, here are some facts – and Spygun is not a fan of clampers but – they were following orders!
As a journo who had walked away from what was potentially a very entertaining story, I thought that I would test some of what I read and heard.
Firstly, I called Robin Fell, Chief Executive of Cheval Properties and asked for a statement. My call was returned ten minutes later. Here is the company’s response in full:
“Our primary concern is the Health and Safety of not-only our tenants but also of the public-at-large. This is an increasingly commercialised area and we are genuinely worried about the possibility of accidents and access difficulties. We are aware of the Sunday boot sale but have had no contact from the organisers. Week-round shopping means that there are goods deliveries which can take place at any time and there have been times when traffic has been at a standstill. For example, there was an occasion when an Ambulance was impeded because of the chaotic parking. We do sympathise with the public and understand their concerns but the parking restrictions will remain for the foreseeable future”
“We wrote to the tenants and users of the road, including NCP, on 20 May to inform them of the upcoming changes. We then wrote to everyone again on 5 June sending copies of the signs that were erected and confirming the date that the clamping would start. Furthermore I understand that Guardian Parking Management visited the site a week before the clamping began to inform people that this was going to happen.”
The boot sale organisers who have been affected by these changes should have been told by NCP that parking restrictions were coming into force and made alternative parking arrangements. The Sunday arrangement is between the boot sale organisers and NCP. Abusing and damaging the clampers and their vans is clearly not the answer.
Guardian Management operatives (the clampers) said that people were still coming into the restricted area while they were clamping – in spite of the notices , men in uniform and two clearly marked vans! Illiteracy, stupidity or provocation?
It also has to be said that the clampers looked like a good professional non-aggressive outfit and not a bunch of tattooed cowboys.
However, this whole debacle in Eastgate Wharf has done very little to enhance the reputations of either Guardian Parking Management or the users of the boot sale. But who is to blame?
The clampers, (Guardian Parking Management) acted totally within the law because vehicles were parked on private land, managed by Cheval Properties. The Police also acted correctly and were not influenced by an attempt at mob-politics led by Norman Baker MP. They are now just investigating a tyre-slashing incident carried out on the clampers’ vehicles.
The managers of the land said today that they have a responsibility to the tenants who in turn have a right of access to their shops and offices. That responsibility is a 24/7 arrangement which of course includes Sundays.
It looks as if the only course of action left open to the car booters of Lewes is another effigy to burn on the 5th November.
They used to burn effigies of the Pope. Now they burn politicians and clampers. How times have changed.