OUTRAGED shoppers are slating clampers after being forced to pay hefty fines for parking-up in a spot which they had used for free for decades.
Over the past week shoppers parking behind Costa Coffee on Church Street, Frodsham have returned to find their cars clamped before being forced to pay an £80 on the spot fine.
Police have been inundated with calls from unhappy residents who have been clamped on the land, where they had parked for free for years, describing National Clamps as ‘despicable vultures’ and accusing them of entrapment.
And shop workers at WH Smiths and Costa Coffee – who do not own the car park – have been faced with extensive complaints after customers returned to their cars to find clampers waiting for them to pay the on the spot fine.
But National Clamps, who have been issuing the fines, have insisted that they have been doing everything in their power to prevent motorists parking on the privately owned land, locking the gates and putting up warning signs.
Tom Hodgson, of Abbotsfield was forced to pay £80 to release his car after meeting a friend for a 20 minute drink in Costa Coffee last week.
Tom, who has parked on the land for years, said that the gates of the car park were wide open inviting motorists to continue to park there, describing the clamping scheme as ‘daylight robbery’.
“I couldn’t believe that a clamping company were able to disable my car and issue me a fine in the short period of 20 minutes,” said Tom.
“The cost to remove the clamp was an outrageous £80 cash or £83 if I paid by card, all this resulting from a 20 minute coffee! It felt like daylight robbery when I handed over the cash to them.”
Another elderly resident criticised the clampers after having to pay a week’s worth of her disability benefits to free her car.
Anne Wallace of Kingsley Green, Frodsham added: “The staff at WH Smith had from time to time closed the gates in an effort to stop drivers falling into the clampers trap, but National Clamps would come back and re-open the gates.”
A staff member at WH Smith on Chester Road said that since the clamping started the shop has been inundated with customers complaining about the fine despite staff going out and closing the gates.
“One of our staff has even been clamped, he had to pay the £83 fine. A lot of people think the car park is ours but it is not, we don’t even know who owns it,” she said.
COUNCILLORS have issued a warning to residents about parking in the area, but have advised motorists that they are powerless to fight the fines.
Frodsham’s Mayor Cllr Andrew Dawson salted the clamping operation as a ‘deplorable state of affairs’, saying: “The town council is powerless to do anything because it’s private land.
“But the impression I have is that it looks like a revenue raising exercise. It appears to be a very sharp practice and the town council will send strong letters of protest to the owner of the land, the clamping organisation, the police and Cheshire West and Chester Council.”
Inspector Phil Hodgson of Frodsham Police asked residents not to phone the police as they have ‘no power to deal with the issue’.
A spokesperson for National Clamps refused to say who the landowner was but said that the car park was being closed due to insurance reasons.
“There are four signs on the site which is more than adequate for the size of the land, which very clearly warn motorists not to park there,” he said.
“We have not been opening the gates but have locked them up to deter motorists from parking on the land. However someone has been tearing down the signs and smashing up the padlocks.
“We are doing everything humanly possible to keep people from parking on the land, but we will not be locking the gates again if all that’s going to happen is that the locks will be ripped off.”