Thursday, February 09, 2006

Council gets the hump

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse for Sunderland City Council after the Decriminalised Parking Enforcement fiasco, we reveal that they never conducted the proper consultations or completed the correct legal process for installing the City's traffic calming measures.
Now we appreciate that there are arguments both for and against speed humps and 20mph zones. What we will not accept is a local authority cutting corners with a complete disregard for the law.
Remember, this was the same legal department that initiated the prosecution against Steven Thoburn, the Sunderland greengrocer, who was told 'the law is the law and you must obey the law. We have no option but to prosecute.'
There is a great deal more to come.
...but who will prosecute Sunderland Council Officers for showing a blatant disregard for the law?

For reference:
S.137(1) Highways Act 1980: A Summary Offence
Definition: "If a person, without lawful authority or excuse, in any way wilfully obstructs the free passage along a highway he is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding (level three on the standard scale).

1991 Road Traffic Act
Danger to road-users
22A.— (1) A person is guilty of an offence if he intentionally and without lawful authority or reasonable cause—
(a) causes anything to be on or over a road, or
(b) interferes with a motor vehicle, trailer or cycle, or
(c) interferes (directly or indirectly) with traffic equipment,in such circumstances that it would be obvious to a reasonable person that to do so would be dangerous.

Sunderland Echo
Wednesday, 09th February, 2006

Bungling council staff responsible for the city's parking fines fiasce installed 2,000 speed bumps illegally, it was claimed today.

The mistakes - which could cost the city millions - have been uncovered during the inquiry into the mess that saw council bosses refund thousands of parking tickets.

Chief executive Ged Fitzgerald admitted in a letter to campaigners that orders to make 20mph zones had not been in place.
Metric Martyr Neil Herron, who received the letter, and Captain David Green, who first complained about the humps 10 years ago, said there had to be a zone legally in place for speed humps to be installed.

Without the order, Captain Green said the humps installed before 1996 should be classed as an obstruction in the highway - an offence under the Road Traffic Act.

Opposition councillors called for heads to roll over the mess.

Council bosses said they were resolving problems - following the review of the decriminalised parking enforcement (DPE) - but would not comment further.

In his letter, Mr Fitzgerald says: "It is evident several of the same weaknesses identified in the review have contributed to the failure to make the 20mph zone orders.
"It is also apparent that decisions of previous chief officers not to retrospectively seek to regularise those road humps installed prior to 1996 has created a difficult legacy that needs to be resolved."

Captain Green, 65, of Cairnside, East Herrington, said: "In 1996, they put a load of humps in and 20mph zones and they never had the authority to do it.
"These are illegal and it could cost millions of pounds to rectify. In the initial phase, up to 1996, there was about 2,000 humps and it cost about £1,000 to put each one in.
"It's a chaotic situation - and now they're in line for prosecution for putting dangerous obstructions on the highway."

The claims come after Mr Herron and retired mariner Captain Green exposed missing traffic orders that led to the council refunding parking tickets.

Sunderland Council is putting in place new traffic orders governing marked on-street parking in the city, after paying back £34,000 in fines.

A spokesman said: "We are in the process of regularising procedural issues in relation to 20mph zones and road humps in order to ensure we continue to enjoy the significant road safety benefits which these measures have produced in the city."

Conservative leader on Sunderland Council, Peter Wood, said: "The longer this goes on, the more problems are identified and the more it becomes clear that what has been opened is a can of worms.
"Whilst I'm satisfied with the actions the chief executive has taken, everything underlines the incompetence in the old environment department, which is still there in the new directorate of development and regeneration.
"That has to be rooted out. You can't leave in place people who have delivered that level of service."
"It is not up to the standards that people in the city are entitled to expect of the people working for them.
"There must be some new faces."

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