We’re all used to complicated parking regulations in London, with the evil, vulture-like councils seizing every opportunity to issue us with fines (a topic I believe has already been extensively ranted about on the site).
As such I very thoroughly scoured a Wandsworth parking area for restrictions recently when I was out with my mates Chris and Rob. Then, having assured ourselves that there were none, we parked and confidently headed into the pub.
An hour later we emerged.
‘Um…where’s your car?’
It’s not what you really need when you’re hungover on a Saturday, having just limped out of The Ship after a restorative lunch, still feeling delicate and looking forward to curling up on the sofa with a cup of tea.
‘God…it definitely was here that we parked, wasn’t it?’
Oh, it really was. But that didn’t stop the three of us from staring bewilderingly at the now empty space where Chris’s BMW had sat.
‘It’s happened at last,’ Chris declared gloomily. ‘Someone’s nicked it. It had to happen at some point, but did it have to be now?’
We stared some more, and I looked around. ‘It can’t have been stolen. It’s broad daylight, and it was in front of a really popular pub with three cameras pointed at it.’
Chris shrugged. ‘It’s old. It would be pretty easy.’
‘Could it have been towed?’ Rob suggested.
‘There are no “Don’t park here, or we’ll tow your car” signs,’ I pointed out.
‘But there are no parking signs at all,’ Rob added.
We all trooped back into the pub, and Chris asked the bar staff if cars that parked around the pub ever got towed. They admitted that tickets got freely handed out in the area. Finally one of the managers came out with a very sorrowful look on his face. Yes, he’d seen the car being towed. No, it didn’t happen very often. But he’d had his own car towed before, and he very kindly gave us the number to call, listed on his phone under ‘Car Pound Cunts’.
Chris spent the next half hour on the phone, walking behind us back to our flat. Occasionally we heard his incredulous tones floating towards us: ‘Yeah, it was a drop kerb, but it was just for pedestrians, it wasn’t a drive or anything…there was no obstruction…’
It turned out that it was a private company who had picked his car up, and despite the fact that there were no parking restrictions and we’d only been in the pub an hour, they were not only allowed to slap a ticket on the car, wait five minutes then tow it, but they were endorsed by the council. What the fuck?
So how do you get your car back in this situation? Well, you rock up to the compound with £260 – that’s £200 for the release of the car and £60 for the ticket – and you must provide your driving license, proof of address and (most importantly) your registration document. If your reg doc is at home in deepest Essex (as it was in Chris’s case), then too bad. Oh, and you must manage this within 48 hours, unless you want to start paying for storage.
Again, what the fuck? No signs, no warnings of any kind, no rules on appropriate timing. Nothing. And the government fully backs these thieving arseholes?
Just to add a little extra fun, the tow truckers actually damaged Chris’s car in the process – but of course that was his own fault for leaving it there in the first place. Obviously.
I’m still furious over this outrageous affair, but just in case you find yourself in a similar predicament, you have 28 days to appeal. I strongly suggest you do.
Image by Abulic Monkey courtesy of Flickr