Councils should take care before clamping or towing away a vehicle, a parking appeal service has warned following a Birmingham University report.

Many drivers do not realise they have a right to appeal against a penalty charge notice, the annual report from the National Parking

Adjudication Service (NPAS) adds. After one towing-away incident, an NPAS adjudicator drew a council's attention to the Human Rights Act.

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The NPAS added that it had become concerned at the number of cases involving a vehicle clamped or towed away in which councils had elected not to contest the owner's

appeal. The NPAS report says: "It is important that the decision to clamp a vehicle or to tow it away is made with care and only in circumstances in which the council seriously believes that its decision can be justified if challenged by the motorist."

The report says councils in England and Wales issued 2.85 million penalty charge notices for parking offences in 2004, of which only 10,441 were appealed against.

The report said a survey by Birmingham University showed there was "considerable lack of public awareness of the right to appeal". Birmingham issued the most penalty charge notices in 2004.