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Council relents over Park Way bridge fines

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West Berkshire Council eases 'zero tolerance' stance over fines after discovering signs were not illuminated

WEST Berkshire Council has backed down from its former, zero tolerance stance over fines issued to motorists wrongly using Park Way bridge in Newbury.

The announcement came yesterday evening (Wednesday) after it emerged that the signs were not properly illuminated after dark.

Earlier this week, Newburytoday.co.uk visited the site after dark and saw that the lights mounted on the signs were not turned on.

The council initially told this website that everything was as it should be and that they were conforming to “the letter of the law” by issuing fines to motorists who illegally drove over the bridge, and said the correct signage was in place to warn drivers against doing so.

But council spokesman Keith Ulyatt said yesterday: “Although it remains an offence for vehicles other than taxis, buses or cycles to cross the bridge at any time, recorded incidents that have not yet been processed will not result in a penalty notice being issued if it is found that the infringement occurred during the hours of darkness, and the signs were not illuminated.

“For those who have already paid their penalty notice, we regret we cannot issue refunds because the process of paying the fine is acceptance of the road traffic offence with the motorist recognising they have contravened traffic regulations.”

Scores of angry drivers, caught out by the new bus lane camera contacted this website over what they claimed were unfair fines. Of the 2,274 drivers caught for driving over the bridge between November 4, 2011, and January 22, many have claimed the signs are confusing, while others have said they are downright illegal.

Some were also disappointed to find that if they appealed, they were penalised by being charged the full £60, rather than a reduced fine of £30.

The issue also prompted a huge debate on Newburytoday.co.uk's forum.

One driver, Barrie Singleton, from Newbury, who was fined and told he would have to pay up when he complained earlier, was unappeased by the council's partial U-turn decision yesterday.

He said: “I am even more livid now, because what they are trying to do is to grab the money and run. There were a lot of people who were fined after dark who have already paid and who will not be refunded. That just adds to their list of misdemeanours.”

Mr Singleton also maintained that even in daylight, the signs were not clear.

Even before news of the move came yesterday, the president of West Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, Ian Vickerage, said that some retailers were very unhappy with the situation: “Our retail members are particularly affected by this and I think they feel pretty unhappy about it. Having spent so much on promoting the town, to now give people an unwelcome reception is a shame.

“I don't think the council was malicious here, but perhaps the scale of the problem should be an indication that we should look at it again.”

To have your say on this story, contact Eddie Van Der Walt on (01635) 564520 or email Eddie.VanDerWalt@newburynews.co.uk, or join the online debate.

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