Driver given £1,300 charge for five minutes' parking

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A driver has been landed with a £1,300 charge from wheel-clampers after leaving his car for less than five minutes while picking up his niece from her dancing school.

Tim Garbutt, who is facing what is thought to be the largest charge ever imposed by private clampers, had left his Land Rover Discovery in an empty forecourt next to his niece's dance school in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.

Returning minutes later, Mr Garbutt, 33, said the car was clamped and two attendants who had been "skulking in the shadows" demanded £95. He attempted to remove the clamp but was wrestled to the ground. A tow truck arrived to remove the car and he was told he had to pay another £190.

Two days later he met staff from the Leeds-based company, National Parking Control, to pay the £285. He was told that he also had to pay £240 for damage to the wheel clamp, £190 for the tow truck and £70 storage.

Mr Garbutt, a freelance events manager, again refused to pay. The charge, which has been rising by £35 a day, now stands at £1,310. "I haven't got the money, so I can't pay up," he said. "If I had parked there all day I would admit I was wrong, but I was there for minutes; it was dark and raining, and there was a tiny sign that you can hardly see in daylight."

National Parking Control, which could not be contacted yesterday, was licensed to operate parking on the forecourt by Kirklees Music School. The school's solicitor, Stephen Pollitt, said it was alarmed by what had happened and had sacked the firm. "All we wanted to do was raise a small amount of money from licensing this car park. As soon as we heard, we ended the agreement," he said.

New laws to regulate private clamping are not expected to come into force until next year. The RAC Foundation has warned that cowboy firms are enjoying a "free-for-all" in the meantime. An RAC spokesman advised Mr Garbutt to consult a lawyer.