Home   Maidstone   News   Article

KCC seeks powers to enforce moving traffic offences across Kent

Kent County Council is aiming to take advantage of new government legislation to take on powers to enforce moving traffic offences.

And it has selected seven locations across Maidstone, Dartford and Ashford where motorists breaking the law will be the first to have fixed penalty notices land on their doorstep.

Automatic number plate reading cameras will enforce the rules
Automatic number plate reading cameras will enforce the rules

The county is applying to the Department for Transport (DfT) for the new powers to tackle offences that could previously only be enforced by the police.

Such offences might include entering a yellow box without being clear to exit, driving in a bus lane, jumping a traffic light or breaking a vehicle weight regulation.

Kent County Council (KCC) is hoping that the fear of receiving a fine through the post will encourage motorists to drive more responsibly, so improving road safety and reducing congestion.

The authority will use Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology to catch those failing to comply with road signs.

KCC has promised the powers would not be used as a way of raising cash but would "only be applied where action is needed to meet key objectives such as to improve road safety and tackle congestion." For that reason it is consulting with the public on the locations it aims to target.

London councils have long had the power to automatically fine drivers passing ‘no entry’ signs, making banned turns, or using taxi or cycle lanes and so on. Now from June councils outside the capital can apply for the same powers.

If granted, Kent will be able to use the power anywhere across the county, but it has selected seven key areas to target initially.

Three of those are in Dartford.

The first will be the bus lane, connecting Greenhithe Station to the Bluewater Fast-track route. Slip into that in your car in future and you could get a fine.

Second and third are the yellow box junctions on the north east and south west sections of the Princes Road Interchange, Junction1B. Motorists should only enter a yellow box if their exit is clear. Vehicles found to be stationary inside the box in future will be fined.

Cllr Peter Harman: Bus lane is abused
Cllr Peter Harman: Bus lane is abused

Cllr Peter Harman (Alliance Group) whose Dartford Borough Council ward includes Greenhithe, said: "The bus lane is abused. It was never designed for general traffic. It is quite narrow in places and is used by pedestrians. Ordinary traffic improperly using the lane causes a safety issue.

"There are also problems with the yellow boxes on the interchange with the A282, especially when large vehicles enter and end up blocking the way for everyone else.

"But care will have to be taken there. Sometimes vehicles enter the box expecting the way to clear and then a vehicle in front stops unexpectedly, leaving them stuck in the box."

In Ashford, KCC will initially target the bus gate, intended for use by buses only, on Beaver Road between South Stour Avenue and and Godfrey Walk. Also cameras will be placed on the bus bridge between Bluebell Road and Finn Farm Road, which is for buses and push-bikes only.

Thirdly, it will enforce the bridge between Sackville Crescent and Carlton Road, which is for buses and taxis only.

Traffic on the northbound A282 from the Princes Road Interchange at Dartford
Traffic on the northbound A282 from the Princes Road Interchange at Dartford

District Cllr Paul Bartlett (Con) who represents the Ashford Ward of Mersham, and Sevington South with Finberry, said: "This is quite a sea change in thinking for KCC and a very admirable move.

"In the past, if residents have complained to councillors about traffic violations, they have been able to shrug and say 'it's all down to the police' but now we have KCC volunteering to take some responsibility.

"We have significant difficulties in Ashford with our bus gates. They are basically at the end of cul-de-sacs that are not suitable for heavy traffic.

"It seemed like a good idea to forge a bus lane at the end, usually over an old footpath or alleyway, because it meant that buses could take short cuts and save time.

"But of course a lot of other traffic has cottoned on to this too, and now residents in those roads are unhappy."

Cllr Paul Bartlett (55971262)
Cllr Paul Bartlett (55971262)

At Beaver Road, there is an actual bus gate, in the form of rising bollards, but even there the technology has never worked well and other motorists have still been able to slip through."

Cllr Bartlett was hoping that the first three enforcement sites would prove successful so that the scheme could be expanded.

He said: "We have a fourth gate in Finberry at the end of Damara Way and Avocet Way, where enforcement is needed as well.

"I don't think anyone will object to these new powers except perhaps a few motorists who have forged a rat-run where they shouldn't have."

In Maidstone, KCC will look at Leeds Village where there is a 17-ton weight restriction (except for access) which is frequently ignored by HGV drivers.

An HGV stuck in Upper Street, Leeds
An HGV stuck in Upper Street, Leeds

Often the village has to put up with hours of traffic chaos when an articulated vehicle gets stuck in the narrow road.

The powers will be used along the full length of B2163 Leeds Road from the A20 to the Five Wents Crossroads with the A274.

Gill Fort who is both a borough and parish councillor for Leeds lives on the affected B2163. She said: "This is absolutely marvellous news.

"HGVs using the road illegally are causing us all problems on a daily basis.

"Especially since I've been working from home, I've seen it so often for myself."

Gill Fort lives on the B2163
Gill Fort lives on the B2163

The village had tried to take action itself in the past - the parish council set up a Lorry Watch group manned by enthusiastic volunteers.

They recorded the details of vehicles breaking the law and sent them to the police, but because the police had not witnessed the offence, all they did was issue a warning letter.

Cllr Fort said: "The group fell by the wayside about four years ago because people became disillusioned that it was having no effect. We asked the police how many tickets they had issued and the answer was none."

On the other hand, police blitzed the road four times last year specifically looking for vehicles exceeding the weight limit and caught 50 offenders.

A lorry watch scheme proved ineffective
A lorry watch scheme proved ineffective

However, questions remain unanswered about how KCC will exercise the new powers. The authority was unable to say what the fixed penalty fine would be, saying it was still waiting on guidance from government.

It was also unable to say how it would deal with drivers wrongly issued a fine.

For example, in Leeds vehicles over 17 tons are allowed to use the B2163 for access, but APNR cameras may result in their receiving an automatic fixed penalty notice through the post and then having to prove their innocence later at appeal.

Cllr Fort did not think that would be a problem in Leeds.

She said: "There is only one farm along the road where perhaps there might be a legitimate use of over-sized vehicles."

Cllr David Brazier
Cllr David Brazier

The cabinet member for highways and transport, Cllr David Brazier, said: “Our first step is to apply to the DfT to be included in the list of authorities that can enforce key highway offences.

He said: “If KCC is granted these powers they will be used across the county in a phased approach.

“We hope better enforcement will help improve the compliance at these specific sites to make the necessary safety, congestion and public transport improvements and I would encourage people to get in touch with their views.”

The authority is holding a consultation on the measures. The public can give their opinion on whether they want KCC to exercise these new powers by visiting its website.

The consultation runs until May 9.

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More