Saturday, June 27, 2009

This why signing MUST comply with the law ... the clock is ticking

When it comes to signing law nearly is not good enough. Stephen Sauvain QC representing Sunderland recently stated in the High Court in relation to another signing issue, that 'no-one could be misled by the meaning of a restriction.'

Adjudicators have also repeatedly chanted the mantra that 'it looks like a road sign or a bay and it is clear in its meaning therefore no-one could have been misled as to its intent.'

If we look at the series of photographs (left and below) it shows a loading bay and also zig-zags. Applying the philosophy and argument from those described above one would think that it is okay to park where indicated for the purposes of loading. No-one could be misled.
However, the zig-zag restriction runs from middle of the road to the building line meaning that motorists are being actively encouraged to park on the zig-zags and in doing so obstruct the field of vision for pedestrian and motorist alike. Now who is being misled?

The Department for Transport have confirmed that this is not allowed (not to mention the fact that the Loading Only bay is also incorrectly marked).

We have signing law for a reason ... and must it take a serious accident or fatality before Sunderland City Council officers reckless indifference to their legal responsibilities strikes home? This is the tip of the iceberg in Sunderland but perhaps the most serious example of their disregard for the law and failure to act.

The Department for Transport despite repeated requests have been indifferent to say the least. Ward councillors and the Leader of the Council have been put on notice as has local MPs Bill Etherington and Chris Mullin.
The photograph on the left shows a near miss and many more incidents involving pedestrians and motorists occur on a regular basis.

However, Lord Adonis now has the matter sitting on his desk and the Sunderland Echo have made the issue very public indeed.
Let us hope that nothing serious happens as the clock ticks ...
A copy of the letter is shown below the article.

Minister reads plea for safety

Sunderland Echo
Published Date: 25 June 2009
By James Johnston

A parking campaigner has written to new Transport Secretary Lord Adonis in a bid to boost safety on a Sunderland road.
Neil Herron took the step after he learnt of a series of near misses in Sea Road, Fulwell, in recent months. The businessman, of The Westlands, said it was a matter of time before there was a fatality there. Children regularly using a crossing are hidden by vehicles parked in loading bays behind zig-zag lines, he said, and the vision of both pedestrians and the drivers can be severely restricted.

In the letter to the Department for Transport (DfT), Mr Herron writes: "A situation exists where non-prescribed loading bays have been placed behind the zig-zags."It is something which continues to cause real concern and, despite raising the matter repeatedly with the highway authority, it is still being ignored."Requests have also been made to the Department for Transport for their intervention before someone is killed at this location, but those requests also seem to be treated with indifference, despite the DfT having powers to intervene."
Mr Herron is also fighting a personal battle against a number of parking fines. He runs Boldon-based Parking Appeals Ltd, a company which helps those who feel they have been on the wrong end of a parking attendant's decision.

In the letter to former rail minister Lord Adonis, who was promoted to Transport Secretary earlier this month, Mr Herron added: "I wish to place the Sea Road matter openly on the record with you personally in your position as the Secretary of State for Transport, in order to rectify the situation as a matter of urgency."

Mr Herron says he is due to hold a meeting with the DfT to discuss the issue.

Lord Adonis Secretary of State for Transport
House of LordsLondonSW1A 0PW
22nd June 2009
Subject: URGENT ... Safety Hazard at Sea Road, Sunderland

Dear Lord Adonis,

A situation exists at the above location where non-prescribed Loading Bays have been placed behind the zig-zags. It is something which continues to cause real concern, and, despite raising the matter repeatedly with the Highway Authority (Sunderland City Council) it is still being ignored. Requests have also been made to the Department for Transport for their intervention before someone is killed at this location but those requests also seem to be treated with indifference, despite the DfT having powers to intervene. John Munns at the Department for Transport has however confirmed that there has been no authorisation for the use of the road markings and plates at this restriction (see attached).

Therefore, I wish to place the matter openly on the record with you personally in your position as the Secretary of State for Transport, in order to rectify the situation as a matter of urgency, and wish for the Highway Authority (SCC) to be informed without delay that the restriction is unlawful and that it must be removed from the highway forthwith.The restriction at this location is not prescribed in law and it has been confirmed that it has not been authorised by the Secretary of State. Therefore, I wish to draw to your attention the following (my emphasis):

Chapter 1 Traffic Signs Manual - Use of Non-prescribed ‘Illegal’ signs.Part 3. Legal Aspects and Responsibilities for Signs1.18 The use on Public highways of non-prescribed signs which have not been authorised by, or on behalf of, the Secretary of State, is illegal and Authorities who so use unauthorised signs act beyond their powers. Additionally, an unauthorised sign in the highway is an obstruction. The possible consequences of erecting or permitting the erection of obstructions may be severe and those responsible could lay themselves open to a claim for damages……
1.20 Authorities should consider requiring the removal of any object or device erected privately on land adjacent to their roads which has the apparent or express intention of guiding, warning or directing road users. In addition, private advertisements should not resemble or incorporate prescribed traffic signs on their symbols. United Kingdom signs are crown copyright and may not be reproduced without permission. In no circumstances will the Department permit the use of traffic signs on advertisements at roadside locations. When prescribed traffic signs are used illegally action should be taken to secure their removal.

I am aware of a number of near misses and it is only a matter of time before there is a fatality at this unlawfully signed location. The frustration is that certain officers at Sunderland City Council appear to think that signing law does not apply to them and this cavalier attitude and reckless indifference to their legal duties applies to other areas in the City, but it can be seen from Chapter 1 of the Traffic Signs Manual Part 3 1.18 that not only are they acting unlawfully they are doing so in the full knowledge that their actions are unlawful.

Meanwhile, school children regularly using this crossing are hidden by vehicles parked in loading bays behind the zig-zags. Both the pedestrians and the drivers view can be obstructed by vehicles ‘encouraged’ to park behind zig-zags.

I would appreciate your intervention and have copied this in to the press and media to make the public fully aware before someone is killed at this unlawfully marked location. I am sure that you will be aware that under
The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 if a person to whom a duty of care is owed (member of the public who relies on Council Officers and the Highway Authority to ensure that restrictions placed on the highway are lawful) is killed then that death could be seen to be due to management failures which amount to a gross breach of the “relevant duty of care”. I wish for you, as the Secretary of State to be fully aware of Sunderland’s repeated avoidance of my requests and refusal to act and therefore fully responsible for any consequences of that failure to act, and that responsibility also resides with you as the Secretary of State.

I have also copied in senior executives at the City Council in order for them to be fully aware of the potential corporate and personal consequences for failing to act, as well as various elected representatives both locally and nationally.

I will make available all communications on this matter on request should you require them.

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Herron

Tel. 0191 5195932
Mob. 07776202045

cc. Chris Mullin MPcc. Bill Etherington MP
cc. Lord Lucas
cc. Dave Smith, Chief Executive, Sunderland City Council
cc. Councillor Paul Watson, Leader
cc. Councillor Colin Wakefield
cc. Councillor George Howe
cc. Councillor Bob Francis
cc. Councillor John Walton
cc. Earl Belshaw, Parking Services
cc. Burney Johnson, Head of Transport and Engineering.
cc. Phil Barrett, Director of Development and Regeneration
cc. Richard Bentley RMB Consulting
cc. John Munns, Graham Hanson Department for Transport
cc. Oliver Mishcon, barrister
cc. James Johnston, Peter Jeffrey, Ross Robertson, Sunderland Echo
cc. Sara Nichol, Newcastle Journal
cc. Tony Kearney, Northern Echo
cc. BBC North East News

1 comment:

Gordon said...

The second picture doesn't show a near miss it shows someone illegally parked in a loading bay!

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