Angry Charedim hold a tow truck hostage

By Leon Symons, May 16, 2008

Two tiny parking bays have sparked a major row between the Charedi community and Transport for London. The row threatened to boil over last week when dozens of angry motorists surrounded a tow-truck that was about to remove a car — and held it for two hours before allowing it to go. The parking bays are at the junction of Stamford Hill and Clapton Common, in North East London, outside a row of shops.

One is a regular parking bay while the other is for loading and unloading. A sign for the loading bay tells drivers they have 20 minutes to load or unload. But it does not tell them about what a TfL spokesperson called the “three-minute rule”. This means that, if a tow truck sees a car in the bay and no-one near it for just three minutes, they will remove it.

Shuki Moses with the sign many think relates to the parking bay

Local people have also accused TfL of deliberately targeting the area and issuing tickets randomly, even sticking them on transport company Darkei Noam’s vehicles parked in a privately-owned road off Clapton Common. Manager Ephraim Goldstein, said: “We have had more than 120 tickets in the past few months. You cannot imagine the hassle the wardens give us. We have written to TfL dozens of times, telling them it’s a private road and that we have the owner’s permission to park there, but they take no notice. They still give out tickets and tow away cars.

“People come here to do their shopping, particularly before Shabbat, and can emerge from a shop to find they have no car. Something has to be done because we feel we are being singled out for this treatment.” Mr Goldstein has sought the advice of Barrie Segal, who runs a website to help people fight parking tickets.

Shuki Moses, manager of Sharon Bakery, said: “I got a ticket a couple of months ago. I forgot to take it off, so the warden thought I’d been there all day and called a tow truck.

“I jumped into the car and refused to get out. We argued for half an hour before they let the car down.”

Andrew Gross, who manages an optician’s in the same parade, said: “I don’t know why there is a sign for loading because none of the shops load or unload. We all have a rear entrance. Lots of mothers and children come here so they should make it all ordinary parking. The signs themselves are misleading. The loading sign says 20 minutes is allowed but if you leave your car alone for three minutes, they will tow it away.“

roperty consultant David Hager said: “Almost every day a car is towed away. I got clamped last year when I was in a private drive.” Moshe Friedlander, a communal representative on the Hackney police Independent Advisory Group who helped defuse the stand-off with the tow truck, said: “I understand there have been a series of problems involving the community, TfL and one of its contractors. I have brought it to the attention of the deputy commander of Hackney police.”

A TfL spokeswoman said: “Loading bays are strictly for loading purposes and not for parking, however brief. “In the few cases where a driver is issued with a Penalty Charge Notice and genuine loading and unloading was taking place, a delivery form or other should be provided and TfL will cancel PCNs issued.” Regarding Tatton Crescent, she said: “We are in the process of cancelling a number issued in error.”

Last updated: 11:17am, July 8 2009