Friday, September 02, 2011

Pay close attention to the increase in parking news stories from the South West

A little bird tells me that we all should watch this space.
Robin B'stard (left)

Exeter Express and Echo
Thursday, September 01, 2011
The parking fines fiasco that drove motorists crazy

WHEN Chris Bragg received a parking fine for stopping in a loading bay he was incensed.
The 63-year-old had not seen a small sign attached to a building site hoarding which warned drivers that they should not stop in the bay – which was unmarked on the road.

Campaigner: Chris Bragg in Market Street,
Crediton where he received a parking fine
Mr Bragg, who runs a garage business in Crediton, where he received the fixed penalty notice, was convinced the signage was insufficient and appealed against the fine.
His appeal was rejected and the Copplestone resident reluctantly parted with £105.

But with the cheque he handed over Mr Bragg included a strongly worded letter, accusing Devon County Council and Mid Devon District Council of breaking the law in accepting the money.
Devon County Council spent several months defending its right to issue fines in the street before it emerged that parking officials had raised many concerns about the markings in the town square.

The county authority eventually admitted the markings on the "dual use" bay, which is a loading area in the morning and a restricted parking zone in the afternoon, had never been properly authorised by the Department of Transport.

The council apologised for the mistake, and the case opened the floodgates for motorists fined for parking there.
Between his unsuccessful appeal and paying the fine Mr Bragg had made contact with a small band of campaigners who have spent many hours researching and pointing out flaws in Devon County Council's enforcement of parking.

These individuals, two of whom are former policemen, say the Crediton case is just the tip of the iceberg, and the county council will be forced to refund more cash.
Some might accuse this group of trying to find technical ways of getting around legitimate fines, an allegation they would refute.

Peter Harry, from Dawlish, began investigating parking issues after a council official falsified documents to make it appear his car was illegally parked in Exeter.
The 68-year-old, who helped Mr Bragg with his fight against the fine, said the campaign was more about righting injustice and holding officials responsible for mistakes which have been made.
"Using the Freedom of Information Act we were able to show that Mid Devon District Council knew that it should not be enforcing restrictions in Market Street, but it continued handing out fixed penalty notices," he said.
"The markings had not been authorised and were unclear. The councils continued to take people's money, not out of malice but because of incompetence."

Mike Thompson, the former Mayor of Cullompton and an ex-police officer, is also working to expose areas where parking regulations have not been properly set up.
The Freedom of Information Act has proved invaluable to the group, which has used it to obtain internal council emails that have exposed mistakes made.
"We are just looking at some of the irregularities and we have found a massive amount of evidence," said Mr Thompson.
"The councils look at fixed penalty notices as a revenue stream but they do not realise the pain and anguish that these cause.
"I have spoken to pensioners who are genuinely worried when they receive a parking ticket. They have to weigh up whether it is worth appealing and risk the fine amount doubling.
"It is a scandal that the councils are not taking every measure possible to ensure the markings are approved and enforceable."

Devon County Council estimates it collected around £6,000 in unlawful fines in Crediton's Market Street. In another twist to the saga, this week it was forced to change the terms of its refund policy.
The council had given those fined 28 days to apply for a refund from the date of a public notice which it issued in May.
Mr Harry question why, when for years it had collected fines illegally, the authority had given them less than a month to apply to get their money back. There is now an open-ended refund policy in place.

A spokesman for the county council said: "In issuing the notice we took advice from a barrister, which was that 28 days was an appropriate period.
"Whilst that period has now elapsed, in good faith, we are continuing to assess any request for refund on its merit and where it is the case that the penalty charge notice was issued in error a refund is provided."
He was not available to comment on whether the council was reviewing the legality of road markings elsewhere in the county.

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