PORTSMOUTH MP Penny Mordaunt has demanded the city council step in and intervene against controversial car clampers after it emerged taxpayers own the land they are operating on.
‘The council owns the land so it needs to stop this’
Scores of motorists have been clamped and fined £205 by City Watch Enforcement at the site behind High Street, Cosham, since June.
Many drivers have complained the parking signs and charges are unclear.
Now The News has discovered the land is owned by Portsmouth City Council, but in 1984 the authority handed it over to Lionsgate Properties on a 99-year lease.
Ms Mordaunt said the council – as landowners – needed to get tough and possibly terminate the lease if the problems continued.
It comes after many drivers have seen their letters of appeal to City Watch against penalty charges returned unopened with a ‘return to sender’ sticker attached.
The Tory MP said: ‘The council needs to start being more aggressive about what is going on. It hasn’t said at this stage whether this is unacceptable.
‘I personally feel City Watch’s actions have been morally wrong. They need to have a proper appeals service in place for people. The whole thing has damaged Cosham as an area and it’s grossly unfair to the local residents.’
The car park is managed on behalf of Lionsgate Properties by Lee Baron Limited (LBL), which has hired City Watch Enforcement to patrol the site.
Ms Mordaunt will hold talks with LBL tomorrow at its offices in Oxford Circus, London. She hopes it will make changes to parking signs and revoke parking charges for those who have appealed.
Ms Mordaunt said: ‘So far they have been co-operative and fair and I hope they can continue along this line.
‘However, if that is not the case, I will be looking for the council to assess the terms of lease and look into the possibility of terminating it if changes cannot be made. The council is the landowner so it needs to put a stop to this and look to a plan B if that’s the case.
‘The hand of local people will be strengthened if the council plays an understanding role and gets on their side.’
Residents have voiced their unhappiness since pay and display meters were installed in June.
Alex Poulton, 33, from London Road, Widley, was clamped after he left his car for five minutes to visit a charity shop.
He said: ‘I’ve been parking at that car park in Cosham all my life for free. I didn’t see any signs telling me there were new rules in place.’
Kevin Kelehan of LBL said letters had been sent back to motorists because they were sent by recorded delivery. As City Watch has a post box address, recorded items cannot be signed for.
He said: ‘People should send their letters by normal delivery to the company’s address. They have assured me that they have a robust appeals process in place.
‘We also have saved copies of every appeal that has been made. We have electronically forwarded them to City Watch who have informed me that they will answer any appeal which is made within 28 days.’
The city council confirmed it did own the land and that it has been leased out for 99 years. But it could not say how much money it received as part of the lease deal.
Despite several attempts to contact transport Cllr Jason Fazackarley he was unavailable to comment.
AA joins fight against car clampers
ANTI-clamping campaigner Paul Watters has criticised City Watch operations at the Cosham car park.
Mr Watters, head of road and transport policy at AA, visited the 62-space car park behind High Street, after weeks of motorists facing clamping fines totalling £205.
The 60-year-old believes a lack of parking signs at the site breaches the British Parking Association’s code of practice for parking enforcement on private land and unregulated car parks.
He says there isn’t a large parking sign at the entrance of the car park, which breaches section A8.1 of the code.
It states a vehicle must only be immobilised and removed if there are visible and legible signs. The BPA sets out a guide of ethical practice for car park operators who wish to join.
But City Watch Enforcement, based in Enfield, London, is not part of the BPA.
Mr Watters said: ‘There isn’t a law which says they have to be a member, which means they can enforce their own parking charges. It’s appalling because the land doesn’t advertise itself as a car park. There isn’t a notice which shows the terms and conditions.’ He says motorists may have a good case if they challenged it in a small claims court.