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Dartford council cancels parking fine issued near Swanscombe school but refuses to admit mistake had been made


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A £70 parking fine issued to a mum who pulled in for a matter of seconds near a school to let on-coming traffic through has been cancelled by a council – but it has refused to acknowledge a mistake had been made.

Katie Pender-Eccleston stopped by zig-zag lines opposite an entrance to a primary school in Swanscombe but had not parked up, she was just waiting for a stream of cars heading in the opposite direction.

The couple's recording of CCTV sent to them 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 momentarily in Swanscombe Street to let the cars pass.

However, Katie, 43, and husband Alan, 46, were shocked after receiving a £70 penalty charge notice through the post a week later.

It happened on Monday, November 8, shortly after 3.40pm and the couple were sent a video of the alleged offence.

In the clip, their silver Ford can be seen stopping by zig-zag lines opposite Manor Community Primary School.

The incident happened in Swanscombe Street, near Manor Primary School
The incident happened in Swanscombe Street, near Manor 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 pull in to let a stream of traffic pass on the narrow street.

Alan said: "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."

Dartford council, which operates the camera, has since cancelled the fine as a "gesture of goodwill".

In a letter informing the couple of its decision it said the offence was for being "stopped in a restricted area outside a school, a hospital or a fire, police or ambulance station when prohibited".

"It is impossible to not have to stop to allow cars to pass"

It added that the "contravention" had been captured by a trained council officer operating the CCTV camera.

The parking services team wrote: "We have considered the evidence as well as your challenge of the PCN and although we believe that the contravention occurred, we accept that the perspective of the driver may be different to that of the camera operator.

"Due to this, we have made the decision to accept your challenge on this occasion and cancel the PCN as a gesture of goodwill."

But husband Alan said he was "infuriated" by the wording, which he says amounted to the council saying his wife was "still in the wrong".

"On this occasion they are saying they will accept our appeal," the 46-year-old added.

New cameras have been put in place outside Manor Primary School in Swanscombe. Photo: Sean Delaney
New cameras have been put in place outside Manor Primary School in Swanscombe. Photo: Sean Delaney

"But it is not an apology or anything, it is simply saying it is a gesture of goodwill – 'we will let it go on this occasion'."

The dad-of-four, a heating engineer, says his wife had opted for the only safe course of action.

"It is impossible to not have to stop to allow cars to pass," he said. "I have done it myself and you have to stop to give way."

He believes the council should acknowledge the error and retrain staff where appropriate.

"I just think it is a problem," he added. "People will continue to be fined for 'contraventions' and it is not right."

'In this particular case however, the council agreed to waive the PCN on the basis of the mitigation offered.'

The council maintains the new camera, which was installed as part of a borough-wide clampdown on problem parking outside school gates, is being used correctly.

A spokesperson for the authority said: "The ANPR camera on Swanscombe Street continues to operate correctly and is acting as a reminder to all drivers to act responsibly and safely, and we will not be altering the way it operates.

"In this particular case however, the council agreed to waive the PCN on the basis of the mitigation offered."

The cameras went live at Manor Community Primary in Swanscombe, The Brent Primary School in Stone and Dartford Primary Academy in June last year.

In the first weeks of term in September, 74 motorists were fined after being found blocking and parking illegally outside the gates.

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