"DO THEY HONESTLY THINK THEY CAN SILENCE ME"
|Borough Council Election 2011|
|"PARKING MAD" |
If not then don't worry the story is a simple one to follow. Two and a half years ago I asked the County Council to review the residents parking schemes in the Borough as it was becoming increasingly difficult for residents to park (too many permits not enough spaces) and the traffic wardens were giving out tickets like confetti. The schemes were old and needed updated, the regulations when they were first introduced were different to now But they ignored me! I then put in an official complaint to the Council and we resolved it by them agreeing to review the schemes, But they didn't! So I complained again, and this time they got all clever with me by saying that they only promised to review the schemes, but never said when they would do it!
So I decided to fight fire with fire. Over a period of 6 months I picked up 10 parking tickets in the Billing Road area and refused to pay any of them, stating lack of maintenance and poor signage and lining as my reasons. During this period I felt victimised as my car was ticketed at any opportunity it was even towed away at one point (although I was told for a totally unconnected reason!) All this happened at the time that my brother was in hospital and unable to drive and I was helping him run his company using his vehicles which the Council wouldn't give me varied permits for.
Anyway I continued to fight all ten tickets and submitted a number to the Traffic Tribunal Service for them to pass judgement. At one point the council tried to withdraw all the tickets but I refused. All I wanted, I told them was a review. The adjudicator adjourned the first hearing and asked us to settle the row between us.
I offered the Council £300 for a charity of their choice to settle the outstanding tickets (10 X £75) if they in return reviewed the scheme. They refused!
So we went the whole distance. The hearing was eventually heard by the Chief Adjudicator for England and Wales Caroline Sheppard, two weeks ago I am delighted to say that she found in my favour in all cases! The council lost in all of it's challenges
She told the Council that their "Permit Holders Only" signs were inadequate as they failed to display the times of the scheme on each and every sign. Furthermore she told them that they could not have a visitors permit scheme which operated for different hours than the residents (currently our overnight visitors even with a permit have to park in two hour bays the night before and move their cars at 10am into a residents bay or at 8am from a residents bay into a 2hr limit and then move again at 10am we call it the pyjama run)
She told them that they could not evidence the state of the markings because they had submitted no evidence, but that the latest changes following resurfacing had only made things worse. she told them to cancel all my tickets, and to cancel the rest that they had issued to me over the period.
The next day they were outside ticketing as usual, knowing that the scheme was unlawful. In the two weeks since the hearing they have not contacted me once to discuss the case and they told the Chronicle and Echo that they were waiting for the official notice before taking any action. Today after they had got the official notice they had no comment to make
The official judgement came earlier this week, all eight pages of it! I include below for your pleasure some of the adjudicators comments therein.
"The signs do not comply with regulations 18"
"The County Council has failed in its duty to sign the effect of the TRO" (Traffic Regulation order)
" The alleged contraventions did not occur"
"The signs used have no times of operation"
"This is hardly surprising as there are three sets of applicable hours within the TRO"
"The CPZ (Controlled Parking Zone) signs do not govern the parking places"
"The County Council may not rely on the CPZ zone to inform road users"
Amazingly the Council tried to defend their ignorance by saying they thought the signs were ok when they put them up and the regulations had changed afterwards! The adjudicator said
"I cannot accept that argument"
They then said that as a Councillor I should know what the regulations were! The adjudicator said
"It is all very well to submit that Cllr Clarke knew what restrictions were intended but the test is not a subjective one, it is an objective one applying to" persons using the road" that means persons in general and not just Cllr Clarke"
Ms Sheppard then criticised the Council for misleading disable blue badge holders who wouldn't know when the scheme was or was not operating.
She then said that in summary
"Northamptonshire County Council at the time the Parking Places Order 2001 came into force failed to comply with its duty under Regulation 18(1)(a) of LATOR to adequately sign the various operational times that applied to the permit bays."
So what does it all mean? Well for a start it means that none of the Residents Parking Schemes in the Town are legal or valid, as none of the TRO's which govern the schemes, the Signs which police the schemes, or the CPZ's which give notice of the schemes are valid.
This means that the Council will now have to review not just the individual schemes but also review the whole policy and look at how to reprovide for issues such as visitors permits and how to display times (perhaps they should look at my suggestion for scratch cards?) It means that they have to draw up new TRO's send them out to residents for consultation and then they will have to replace all the signs in the town at huge cost. It means a Council which can't even afford to keep the street lights on will face a massive bill to correct their own incompetence. (And if you get a ticket in the dark because the street lights are off I am also told you have a good chance of having those quashed as well as the signs would be not readable)
And it also means that the residents like me who have paid our £25 a year will now have no scheme operating leading to potential traffic chaos caused by the Councils stubbornness and arrogance and unwillingness to work with one of their own Cllrs to find a sensible compromise and to listen to residents concerns. At one point (about a year ago) they even had the gall to say, Tony if you win this case then we wont be able to enforce the scheme anymore and it will all be your fault! For the record I said fine then lets settle things here and now with a timetable for proper review.... They of course declined my offer.
As for the current residents schemes I wonder if we will all get our £25 back? One bit of bad news for those already ticketed is that I understand if you have paid a ticket you cannot recover the money? But if you have one outstanding in a residents bay, you now know what to say!
The answer? They (the council, not the wardens) don't give a fig about serving the public, they just want your money and until they were found out they were creaming in over a £1m a year including a large sum from PCN's within the residents parking areas. My message to them is to send them out of our side streets and onto the main roads where they can do what they are paid for, keeping the roads clear, ticketing people blocking bus lanes, ticketing lorries unloading outside of hours and causing mile long tail backs!
Anyone wanting a full copy of the Traffic Tribunals decision can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more on this story see tomorrows Chronicle and Echo.