EXCLUSIVE: York Council Cannot Issue Lendal Bridge and Coppergate Fines
11:20am 1st April 2014
(Updated 3:28pm 1st April 2014)
York Council cannot issue fines for traffic restrictions on Lendal Bridge and Coppergate, according to the government's Traffic Adjudicator.
It throws the controversial road restrictions, which are believed to have raised £700,000 for the city council, into doubt ahead of a decision whether it should be made permanent next month.
This afternoon, York Council has said it will seek legal advice. Darren Richardson, Director at City of York Council, said:
“City of York Council is seeking independent legal advice in relation to the adjudicator’s decision on this specific appeal. We will also be speaking to the Department for Transport, who approved signage used for both schemes."
“The restrictions will remain in place on Lendal Bridge and Coppergate and we would urge drivers to continue to adhere to these."
“We know that a number of councils nationally will be concerned about this decision and the implications this may have in their area.”
Darren Richardson from York Council gave his first interview since the Minster FM exclusive to our News Editor Kevin Larkin, beginning with reading the above statement:
His judgement essentially states that the restrictions in both locations are not a bus lane, as many critics of the scheme on Lendal Bridge had argued. However, because they are not bus lanes, it means the council cannot use evidence from the cameras to issue fines.
The adjudicator states that because of the 14 exemptions at Coppergate and 21 exemptions at Lendal Bridge, they could not be described as a bus lane. He states:
"In my judgement notwithstanding the designation in the Traffic Order neither Coppergate nor Lendal Bridge can sensibly be described as a bus lane, street or gate but rather the roads are part of a general traffic scheme from which non-exempt vehicles are restricted at certain times and where buses are just one of the excepted categories or classes of vehicle."
"Clearly the Council has power to impose those restrictions but because Schedule 7 of the TMA has not been fully implemented civil enforcement does not apply and there is no power to issue a PCN."
In a highly critical judgement, the report states that where a driver has been fined multiple times before receiving the fine in the post, then all fines should be treated as one single fine. He has also suggested that it would be "good public relations" for York Council to issue warning letters for a first offence.
The location of the cameras was criticised as the photos do not take into account traffic conditions and whether a driver had been forced to drive through the restrictions. He added that the choice of camera positions means that drivers "will not have information about the location of the start of the restriction or relevant signing."
The appeals system was described as a "lottery" with the adjudicator saying "it is unacceptable that the council commenced the bus street scheme in the knowledge that sufficient resources to deal with challenges and appeals would not be available despite the statutory obligation to consider each of the representations fairly based on the general principles of public law".
The controversial use of the phrase "Restricted Access" on the road was judged to increase confusion for motorists.
Overall, he stated that:
"I find that neither location can properly be described as a bus lane or street with the result that PCNs should not have been issued on the basis of evidence from the roadside cameras."
The Adjudicator ruled that owing to the busy nature of the junction, it would be "extremely difficult to see and understand the information on these signs from a moving vehicle in the short time available for the driver to make a decision as to whether to follow the road round to the right or to make the left hand turn."
He continues: "Therefore considering the signing at either end of Coppergate as a whole I find that it was not adequate to reasonably alert the driver to the terms of the restriction. In my judgement the signs are poorly located and the exception plates, particularly the information about the times when the restriction operates, are not reasonably understandable from a vehicle negotiating the busy junctions."
"Because I find as a fact that the signing was not adequate I am not satisfied that the restriction at either end of Coppergate can be enforced."
The Adjudicator refers to an "inherent ambiguity" in the signs before arriving at the bridge. saying they could be interpreted as referring to two separate restrictions. "The impression is therefore that the two restrictions were entirely separate, the first being a closure of Lendal Bridge, without any reference to a bus or general traffic restriction, and the second a prohibition of motor vehicles at all times."
"Further on some of the signing the route diagram appears to give the impression that the approach to Lendal Bridge was straight ahead whilst the prohibition on vehicle entry related to the left hand turn."
Again, the use of "Restricted Access" has been criticised with the Adjudicator saying "I am not persuaded that the words adequately convey the extent or nature of the restriction to the approaching driver but if they are intended to be part of the signing regime before the second legend was added the first would not have been readily visible."
It has also criticised the inability for drivers to avoid going over the bridge "It is also a feature of this approach that there are no signs showing the route for unauthorised vehicles either at the roadside or on the carriageway. By the time a vehicle approaches the beginning of the restriction the only way of avoiding it is to do a “U” turn in what is clearly a narrow road. It is not unreasonable for a driver to expect signing not only of the restriction ahead but how to avoid it. The final advance warning sign is only 25 yards ahead of the beginning of the restriction and there is then no alternative route."
However, the signs have now been determined to be adequate after earlier failures, but the Adjudicator said:
"However even though the signing can be regarded as adequate after January 2014 it remains the case that the Council should not be permitted to issue PCNs on the basis of the evidence from the roadside cameras because the restriction was not on any reasonable view a bus street."
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