Hundreds of motorists fined for driving down a school road in Sudbury could get their money back after a tribunal ruled the sign warning of restrictions was ‘inadequate’.
One Brent resident has managed to overturn the charge after a successful appeal and is urging others to do the same.
More than 2,000 fines were issued between May and July of this year by a CCTV camera on Perrin Road, outside Sudbury Primary School. It was introduced in May as part of the council’s ‘Safe Streets’ policy, which is designed to enforce closures on roads outside schools during drop-off and pick-up times for safety reasons.
Resident Christopher Valentine appealed a charge on behalf of his friend, who was issued with a £130 fine for driving down the road during the prohibited times. Driving from Sudbury town, they turned into Perrin Road but Christopher told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that because of the position of the sign, its proximity to the kerb and its height, it is “impossible to see”.
Appealing the fine is a two stage process; firstly it is assessed by Brent Council, which refused it, before it can be escalated to an independent tribunal to determine. The adjudicator subsequently agreed that the restriction was not clearly signed and ruled in Christopher’s favour.
He called the council “arrogant” for disregarding what he said during the first stage of the appeal without going to look at the sign. Christopher added: “It was clear to anyone that, coming up the road, you can’t see a sign that’s right on the edge of the kerb and is facing across the road.”
Christopher believes the camera is “more about a means of revenue than safety of children”. He said there has “never been an accident in Perrin Road involving children” and the council is using safety as a “pretence”.
He added: “They took away all of the safety railings on the corner which [are designed] to stop children coming out of the school and just running into the road. They took the railings away so clearly they weren’t interested in safety and then they stuck up this sign”.
Christopher is urging other drivers to appeal as they may be able to get their money back but also highlighted some of the costs involved in doing so. He said: “To appeal it, you have to go to the tribunal, which is in the congestion zone.”
He added: “So, it cost me £15 to attend, plus the petrol, and I had to take a day off work but [the council] wouldn’t reimburse that. A lot of people may think they might as well just pay the ticket.”
Sudbury’s councillor, Paul Lorber, has again called on Brent Council to review the arrangements after a “staggering” 2,244 penalty charge notices (PCNs) were issued in just three months. The cost of a PCN is reduced to £65 if it is paid off within two weeks. This means that the camera generated at least £145,860 during that time. Brent Council says the monthly figures are reducing as compliance improves.
Cllr Lorber has been lobbying the council leadership on behalf of residents who have been “caught in the trap” to waive the fines. He praised the action of local residents who “did not give up” and took their case to the tribunal.
He added: “Hundreds of local residents have been badly treated. Many have paid out a lot of money they could not afford. The council failed to listen to residents and councillors who knew that things were not right. I hope that the council will be less arrogant in their approach in the future and that they will act quickly to cancel the PCNs and refund all the money collected.”
Cabinet member for environment, infrastructure and climate action, Cllr Krupa Sheth, said: “The parking adjudicator has considered a number of cases relating to school streets enforcement, some of which have been refused on the basis that the signage is adequate and visible, however we will of course cooperate with any of the adjudicator’s decisions.’’
She added: “We don’t want to have to issue any fines, but those who break the rules give us no choice. To make sure drivers know what these rules are, we installed signage that followed national standards and following residents’ feedback, in September we installed improved larger signage to make it even clearer.
“Our school streets are extremely popular with parents, teachers, and pupils. They mean that roads are safer, less gridlocked and help protect children and young people against the dangerous effects of toxic air.”