Published: 05:00, 25 November 2021
| Updated: 16:18, 25 November 2021
A couple have blasted the operation of new parking cameras outside a school after being fined for pulling in to let on-coming cars through.
Katie Pender-Eccleston was driving along when she pulled in front of zig-zag lines opposite an entrance to a primary school.
Katie Pender-Eccleston's recording of CCTV sent to her of the incident in Swanscombe Street
The mum-of-four was taking two of her children and some friends to an after-school gymnastics class at Castle Hill, Ebbsfleet when she paused near The Sun pub along Swanscombe Street in Swanscombe. She says she did so to let a stream of cars pass.
However, Katie, 43 and husband Alan, 46, were shocked after receiving a £70 penalty charge notice through the post a week later.
The incident happened on Monday, November 8, shortly after 3.40pm and the couple were sent a video of the alleged offence.
In the clip, the silver Ford can be seen drawing to a stop towards the front of the zig-zag lines opposite Manor Community Primary School.
The car then edges forward past the markings as it lets a single vehicle through, before waiting just under 30 seconds after two cars further ahead pulled in to let a stream of traffic pass on the narrow street.
When husband Alan first opened the letter from the council, he thought his partner may have made an illegitimate stop.
But upon reviewing the evidence, the Swanscombe resident believes they have fallen victim of over-zealous enforcement.
He said: "No one gets out the car. The picture, the actual photo the council sent, you can clearly see she is not parked.
"You can only allow two cars to pull in ahead where they are waiting for the other cars.
"If she was to go forward she would have blocked the road; no way would they have been able to go anywhere. It is just a nightmare up there."
The dad-of-four, who works as a heating engineer, believes the penalty charge is unjust and has appealed.
His children attend a different primary school to Manor Primary, near their home off Craylands Lane, and he says his wife walks them home before taking the car to pick up friends and travel to an after-school class.
It's a route she regularly takes – and which is frequently fraught with traffic – but this is the first time Katie has been penalised.
Alan said: "I drive the other way but it's like this through the whole of Swanscombe - there are only three to four roads in and out.
"If the clip was 15 seconds longer you would have seen the context of where she drove up to let the traffic through.
"I find it ridiculous - she must have been waiting for 15 to 20 seconds before they have zoomed in to take the number plate."
He added: "That is not right and I'm not prepared to pay the fine for that. How many other people have got this £70 fine?"
Despite their frustrations, Alan says he understands the need for the camera, which was installed as part of a council clampdown on problem parking outside school gates to improve safety for children.
Alan said: "I understand the logic of having that camera there to prevent people stopping and parking but it needs to be used in the right way."
The cameras went live at Manor Community Primary in Swanscombe, The Brent Primary School in Stone and Dartford Primary Academy in June.
In the first weeks of term in September, 74 motorists were fined after being found blocking and parking illegally outside the gates.
It has received a mixed response from residents who took to social media to voice their support for the couple with some venting their frustration and one even threatening to climb up and smash the camera.
Another motorist said using the road left many "running the gauntlet".
Swanscombe councillor Emma Ben Moussa, whose own son attends Manor Primary, believes the cameras are necessary to protect school children after a spate of near-misses and supports the council's use of enforcement powers.
The Labour councillor explained the zig-zag lines were there to protect people but added that road layout changes were needed to support this.
She said: "This is a problem I have tried to raise with Kent County Council lots of times.
"The road either needs to be made one way or widened, because it is just impassable."
However, she has flagged the individual case with the council and has asked others who feel they have grounds for appeal to contact her directly.
Dartford council, which imposed the fine, said it would be inappropriate to comment as an appeal was under way.