Fri, 22 Apr 2016
YET another motorist has had his Park Way Bridge fine cancelled after a judge ruled he had no case to answer.
The ruling is another blow to West Berkshire Council which continues to insist it has the right to demand money from drivers who mistakenly turn into a bus lane on the Newbury bridge.
Critics estimate the council has raked in around half a million pounds – yet the national Traffic Penalty Tribunal has said that the supposed contraventions which attract the fine are bogus.
The latest case was won by motorist David Firth, who visited Newbury on September 15 last year.
Council officials attended to argue their case.
But tribunal judge Annie Hockaday acknowledged Mr Firth’s “detailed” evidence that “he was a stranger to the town and the signs to inform drivers of the bus lane were poor and misleading, especially as it was dark and raining”.
She ruled that the council’s official working of its order “fails to impose” a legally-binding restriction.
But in any case, she concluded: “To prove the contravention the council must produce a video and a signed statement as to the circumstances [regulations] require the production of the video.
“I find the contravention is not proved. I allow this appeal. Mr Firth has nothing to pay.”
Ms Hockaday acknowledged that the council officials “said they had not provided videos for previous appeals about Park Way Bridge”, but dismissed their submission, stating: “It is my view that [regulations] require the production of the video.”
Mr Firth said after the hearing: “It is astounding to find that West Berkshire Council has never had any rights to apply fines or otherwise pursue anyone for money as a result of crossing this bridge.
“The tribunal ruling states there has never been a restriction, legally imposed, on that bridge.”
In 2014 this newspaper reported how, within the first year alone – from November 2011 when it became a bus, taxi and bicycle lane – 6,080 motorists were fined for driving over it, equating to £170,000 in revenue for council coffers.
An additional 3,900 people had been fined for driving in the bus lane – in either direction – since November 2012.
For years the council rejected claims that Park Way Bridge warning signs were inadequate and designed as a revenue generator.
The ruling Conservative administration hit back, blaming aggrieved motorists’ own “stupidity”.
But in 2012 the independent tribunal upheld an appeal by Reading motorist Peter Jeffries, who was fined £60 for exiting one of The Wharf car parks into the bus, taxi and bicycle-only lane.
On that occasion too, the adjudicator ruled that the “alleged contravention did not occur” because the carriageway warning was sited so that drivers had already entered the forbidden area by the time they had seen it.
The council was refused permission to seek a review of that ruling.
In response to our request a spokesman for the council, Martin Dunscombe, said 1,645 PCNs were issued at Park Way bridge during 2015/16.
He confirmed that the council intended to change the wording of the regulations in light of the adjudicator's ruling.