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Haworth joy as clamping ban law gets Royal Assent
Wheel clampers who act like “modern-day Dick Turpins” will be banned from operating on private land under a new law welcomed by former Speaker of the Commons Betty Boothroyd, businesses and visitor attractions in one of Bradford district’s most important tourist honeypots.
Campaigners have been battling for more than a decade to rid Haworth’s notorious Changegate car park of its clampers, following years of negative publicity about how their behaviour drives away tourists.
It is hoped there will be a boost in visitor numbers to the famous village where the Bronte sisters lived, when clamping on private land becomes a criminal offence later this year under the Protection of Freedoms Act.
Those who have fallen victim to the Changegate clampers include the former Speaker of the Commons, Betty Boothroyd, who was clamped in 2008 while visiting Haworth with a friend after their valid parking ticket fell face down on the dashboard of their car to obscure it.
Welcoming the new legislation Baroness Boothroyd, told the Telegraph & Argus: “It is about time. People have been taken for a ride by these cowboys for too long.”
The life peer added: “They are just cheating the public. I was very annoyed about it at the time and have had masses and masses of letters since, from overseas visitors to Haworth, about these people who have thoroughly shamed the area by what they have done.”
At the time, car park owner Ted Evans accepted that the pair had bought a valid ticket but said it had not been displayed properly.
Stephen Whitehead, a trustee of the Bronte Society who has been campaigning for a change in the law for more than a decade, said: “There has been a catalogue of complaints against the Haworth clampers.
“I have seen old men shaking and old women crying after receiving a punishment that was completely disproportionate to any crime they may have committed. Because it has been so outrageously administered, it has given Haworth national and international publicity – which has been totally negative.
“Everyone involved with the tourist industry in Haworth has been affected because it has stopped people coming.
“This will remove that blight from the village.”
Former Keighley MP Ann Cryer, who is president of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, said the railway group had been “very upset” for years about the effect of clamping at the Changegate car park on tourism.
She said: “That sort of rogue operation had tarnished everything and I’m just delighted that it will be stopped.”
Worth Valley Councillor Glen Miller, Bradford Council’s Conservative leader, said the “long overdue” Bill which received Royal Assent this month, would stop others suffering similar “traumatic experiences”.
He said: “In many cases we have heard of the unwelcome and traumatic experiences endured by many people, often when simply leaving their vehicles unattended whilst they go in search of change to purchase a valid parking ticket.
“It will make it harder for unscrupulous clamping companies to act like modern-day Dick Turpins. Rogue operators will now have to rely on the parking charges they receive rather than the clamping fines they extort to remain in business.
“I know this will be very welcome news to the business owners in Haworth, who rely on the tourism industry. Too often they have had to bear the brunt of visitors’ anger when they have been clamped and see the practice as one which has tarnished the reputation of Haworth and prompted those visitors never to return.”
John Huxley, chairman of Haworth Parish Council, said: “For many years I have been campaigning for a change in the law. I respect the right of any private car park owner to charge for providing a service and have a reasonable scale of charges for people who do not obey the rules.
“We will have to see if the Government gets this right but, if they do, it will be a massive, massive lift for tourism.”
Mr Evans was unavailable for comment yesterday.