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Illegal parking sign won’t see council change policy

Challenge to ticket opens up can of worms

aA landmark tribunal ruling has found Canterbury City Council guilty of illegal parking enforcement — yet the authority is refusing point blank to change its policy. Numerous parking signs – in place since 2007 – are unlawfully worded and unenforceable, adjudicators have decided. Their decision could prompt hundreds of challenges to historic tickets doled out in one of the city’s biggest parking zones. And with similar signage in four other city centre parking regions, it could have repercussions for thousands of other motorists. But the city council has defiantly ignored the tribunal’s ruling, and is vowing to fight tooth and nail each and every similar challenge.

Enforced

The signs, throughout the St Lawrence Parking Zone in south Canterbury, prevent motorists from moving their cars from one space to another within the same zone. According to the council, drivers can park in the zone for up to four hours — but must then move their cars to an entirely different zone in the city to avoid being ticketed. Yet a tribunal has ruled that the city council’s mterpretation of the law is wrong and that the ‘No return to this zone’ should not be enforced. It says drivers do have a right to park elsewhere in the zone it must simply move their car to another bay. Its decision follows an appeal from a man whose wife was given a ticket despite moving her car within four hours from Ethelbert Road to Cromwell Road. Chris and Julie Chandler spent six months taking their case to the traffic tribunal after deciding the ruling was unfair. In November last year, a tribunal finally decided in their favour, ruling “the sign relied on [by the council] is wrong” and the “contravention… unenforceable”. Incredibly, however, the tribunal’s decision is binding only on that particular case, and it cannot direct the council to change its policy. A spokesman for the Traffic Penalty Tribunal of England and Wales said:

“It’s a legal decision and binds the appeal in question. It’s a matter for the council if they take on board what we’ve said or not.”

The council’s response has been to dig its heels in. The signs remain in place, the policy remains unchanged, and tickets will continue to be issued for breaches of the offending ‘no return’ rule in the St Lawrence zone. It admits it has issued 674 tickets for this ‘offence’ over the years in the St Lawrence zone alone. With similar rules in the St Mildred’s, Holy Cross, St Stephen’s and All Saints zones, the number of comparable tickets issued could be significantly higher.

Adjudicator

Julie and Chris Chandler were vindicated after challenging the ‘no return zone’ parking sign
Julie and Chris Chandler were vindicated after challenging the ‘no return zone’ parking sign

Appeals against such tickets will be rigorously defended, the council says, despite the cost to the public purse. It was unable to tell the Gazette how much of taxpayers’ money was spent defending the Chandlers’ case, saying merely that it was “around four to five hours of an officer’s time”. Spokesman Rob Davies said:

“Article 24 of the Canterbury Traffic Regulation Order states that once a motorist has parked in a four-hour zone, no matter how long for, they then cannot return to that zone for four hours. We have taken legal advice on the Chandler adjudication case and that advice has stated that the adjudicator has referred to the wrong regulations in her judgment and has failed to take Article 24 into account, meaning the judgement is incorrect.”

However, Mr Davies said that the council had not sought to seek a review – or appeal of the Chandler’s tribunal decision. He added:

“Were anybody else to appeal a penalty charge notice on the same grounds, and a similarly incorrect decision was reached, we would appeal or review it.”

CITY AUTHORITY ACCUSED OF BEING ‘FACELESS’ AND ‘DECEITFUL’

The couple who successfully challenged the council’s parking policy have accused the authority of being “faceless” and “deceitful”. Julie and Chris Chandler spent more than six months fighting a parking ticket issued to Mrs Chandler in Cromwell Road in April last year. Despite having moved her car from nearby Ethelbert Road within the four-hour time limit, she was issued a ticket because the parking signs state ‘No return to this zone within 4 hours’. As both roads were within the St Lawrence parking zone, a warden slapped a £50 ticket on her windscreen. In November last year the traffic tribunal ruled the law in fact allowed for Mrs Chandler to move her car to another bay within the same zone. Mrs Chandler, who had worked at Kent and Canterbury Hospital for 25 years before retiring at Christmas, said:

“We do feel vindicated. It seems ridiculous that you’ve got to move your car to another part of the city. As many people parking in the zone work at the hospital, that’s time taken away from the patients.”

Speaking from their home in Tilmanstone near Dover, Mr Chandler, said:

“You have to wonder how many tickets they’ve given out like this. The council’s behaviour has been disgraceful – I’d say deceitful. They did their best to make communication as difficult as possible. They just fobbed us off. I called people but was told I’d need to speak to someone else. I sent emails. The only communication we got was from ‘Parking Enforcement’. They were just faceless.”

Worst of all, said Mr Chandler, the council issued a charge against the couple for non-payment of the fine, before they had had the chance to appeal. The adjudicator Gillian Ekins concluded:

“I find that the contravention did not occur and that there has been procedural impropriety on the part of the council.”

Herne Bay Gazette, February 26th 2015

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