Published: 09:00, 02 March 2015
| Updated: 09:01, 02 March 2015
A 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.
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 interpretation 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 – but 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.
Appeals against such tickets will be rigorously defended, the council says, despite the cost to the public purse.
"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" - Rob Davies
It was unable to tell 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.”
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