Minister apologises for clamping fiasco

Donal Gallagher, Branch Manager of Lindsay Cars, Mallusk, and Jonathan Davis, Mazda Sales Manager, with the cars that was clamped by the DVLA outside their showroom. INNT 14-009-FP
Donal Gallagher, Branch Manager of Lindsay Cars, Mallusk, and Jonathan Davis, Mazda Sales Manager, with the cars that was clamped by the DVLA outside their showroom. INNT 14-009-FP

THE boss of a Mallusk car dealership has welcomed an apology from the Environment Minister after Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) contractors clamped three vehicles parked outside his showroom last week.

Shortly before 5pm on Tuesday (March 27) clampers immobilised two cars and a van parked at the entrance to the Lindsay Cars showroom on the Mallusk Road.

Branch Manager Donal Gallagher couldn’t believe that the vehicles had been clamped, even though they were parked on private property.

Mr Gallagher and his staff could’ve been forgiven for thinking that April Fools’ Day had come early this year, but they soon realised it was no joke when the DVA demanded a whopping £780 for the vehicles to be released.

The Ford and Mazda dealership was told that because the vehicles were parked in a “public access” they should’ve been taxed, and Mr Gallagher was forced to pay £100 to have each of the clamps removed and a £160 surety for each of the untaxed vehicles.

A spokesman for the Department of the Environment confirmed that the DVA had authorised its contractor, VEAS, to clamp the three untaxed vehicles. However, following public criticism of the DVA’s tactics on BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show, Environment Minister Alex Attwood stepped in and apologised to the dealership.

“It is clear that this situation should not have arisen. I have instructed DVA to recompense Lindsay Motors. I have instructed the Chief Executive of DVA to advise his staff, who authorise clamping, that they have to ascertain, from commercial showrooms, if vehicles parked outside, on forecourts, or being transferred from a transporter, are part of the business and up for sale,” Mr Attwood said.

“Also, I have asked for a report on this issue to determine how this incident happened now when cars have been parked by Lindsays for many years in this manner. There must be some reason why this happened now when it has not happened before. DVA management have been asked to find out the full circumstances from the clamping company. There are clear questions that the clampers have to answer and I have told my staff to get the answers,” he added.

Welcoming the Minister’s intervention, Mr Gallagher said that common sense had prevailed.

“Mr Attwood said he would be investigating what happened and apologised for the hassle and inconvenience we were caused and said it should never have happened. He also assured us that we will get a full refund.

“The motor industry is on its knees at the minute and we certainly don’t need £780 coming out of our account unnecessarily.

“We’re just trying to make a living, parking a few cars and vans at our own gate for advertising, to try to get a few more people in. But they (the DVA clampers) got it completely wrong and said that we were obstructing public access.

“We’ve been doing this for 15 years or more and no-one has ever come and said a peep to us about it. The thing that annoyed me most was that we didn’t even get a warning; they just turned up and started clamping vehicles,” he commented.