Belfast road is most clamped street in Northern Ireland - drivers spend £34k to free cars
A road is in Belfast is the most clamped street or road in Northern Ireland, new figures have revealed.
Department for Infrastructure statistics show 16 vehicles were clamped on the Lisburn Road between the start of 2016 and the end of June this year.
It was almost double the number of clampings carried out on Chichester Street, Northern Ireland's second most clamped street.
Botanic Avenue, Great Victoria Street, and King Street all had eight clampings each.
Between January 2016 and June of this year Northern Ireland's motorists paid out £34,581 to have clamps removed from their cars.
Northern Ireland's 10 most clamped roads and streets were all in the Belfast City Council area.
In 2016 there were 254 cars clamped in Northern Ireland, 305 cars were clamped in 2017, and 91 cars were clamped in the first six months of 2018.
In Northern Ireland there are two reasons to clamp a car.
Action can be taken for an unpaid penalty charge notice, or against vehicles parked in urban clearways and bus lanes.
A spokesman for the Department for Infrastructure said clamping had been an effective measure to prevent traffic offences.
Clamping was introduced for cars parked in urban clearways and bus lanes on March 5.
Between that date and the end of June 35 cars were clamped and removed for that reason.
The rule was introduced to stop motorists blocking the main arteries into Belfast by parking illegally.
Enforcement is carried out for the Department for Infrastructure by contractor NSL Services Group.
Drivers are required to pay a charge of £40 to have a clamp removed if the car has been removed to a nearby street, or £105 if the car has been taken to the vehicle pound (with a £12 per day storage rate applied).
Speaking at the time of the launch of the measure, Ciaran de Burca, Department for Infrastructure director of transport projects, said: "Vehicles parked in urban clearway routes and bus lanes during operational hours cause significant delays and congestion for commuters and other road users, particularly during the morning and evening peak traffic hours.
"For drivers who choose to ignore urban clearway and bus lane regulations, this specially designed enforcement vehicle will carry out the removal and clamping of illegally parked vehicles, leaving main routes unobstructed during these key times and allowing other road users to continue on their journeys without the unnecessary delay caused."
Earlier this year the issue of clamping was in the headlines after footage emerged of Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly removing a clamp from his car, raising questions about the legality of clamping a vehicle in a private car park.
Speaking after the incident, legal expert Joshua Rozenberg said clamping legislation had not been updated in Northern Ireland since the 1970s and differed substantially from other parts of the UK.
Clamping on private land in England and Wales became an offence in 2012 under the Protection of Freedom Act, with the same law having been in place in Scotland since 2002.
However, it remains legal in Northern Ireland.
Companies here can still hire contractors to clamp private cars on their land, although companies able to do this must be licensed by the Security Industry Authority (SIA) and are regulated by the British Parking Authority.
The maximum fee private contractors can charge to free a car from a clamp in Northern Ireland is £100.