Tribunal cancels Lee Green low-traffic neighbourhood fine because of poor signage

Manor Park
Residents had to place their own signs on the gate in Manor Park

A tribunal has told Lewisham Council to cancel a penalty charge issued in Lee Green’s low-traffic neighbourhood because of indaquate signage.

Local resident Oliver Du Sautoy was slapped with a fine for going through a camera-enforced barrier at the junction of Northbrook Road and Manor Park. He argued that the particular modal filter, where Northbrook Road and Manor Park meet, was badly signposted.

The council changed the signage months after the scheme launched and after Du Sautoy went through the barrier.

An adjudicator at London Tribunals has ordered the council to cancel his fine and to refund any money that had already been paid.

Now Mr Sautoy is asking that all fines issued to drivers at that spot between the launch of the scheme and when the council improved the signage should be cancelled.

According to the decision: “Mr Du Sautoy argues that the bus route signs are not sufficiently clear to motorists turning left until after a motorist has committed to making a left turn.

“The local authority acknowledges that there is now an additional sign in Northbrook Road but the local authority does not explain why the signs were erected if the local authority was satisfied that the bus route signs were clear absent the additional no left turn sign.

Northbrook Road
Before: Drivers had no warning that left-turns were banned

“I am not satisfied that on September 5 the bus route was sufficiently clearly signed to alert motorists turning left into Manor Park of the restriction. I allow this appeal.”

Du Sautoy said: “I suspect hundreds of people have been caught at this very confusing, pretty mean-spirited trap. What’s really galling is that they’ve rejected appeals that have gone in knowing the signs are wrong.”

He criticised the council for wasting resources. “Someone at Lewisham Council has taken the trouble to work on 30-odd pages worth of evidence against me. It’s a classic example of petty injustice. I feel that it is the responsibility of Lewisham to actually go back and refund any fine relating to that incident because they’ve obviously made a mistake,” he said.

Some of the scheme was rolled back last month after a spike in traffic in neighbouring areas, though the left turn on to Manor Park is still banned.

It emerged in October that Lewisham had issued £3.1 million in fines following the introduction of the scheme.

Drivers breaking the rules have to pay £65, which doubles to £130 if they fail to pay within two weeks.

Du Sautoy and others say that residents who have a case to fight the PCNs often don’t because they are worried about the fines increasing.

Northbrook Road
After: Drivers are now warned of the restriction

Annie Kirby, a resident who lives just outside the low-traffic neighbourhood, has been helping people challenge the charges.

“I kept seeing all these stories come up about people who have lost their jobs or just been really affected by the pandemic,” she said. “It made me angry because I felt there could not have been a worse time for them to introduce financial penalties. I can understand the reasons for the LTN, and I think the principle is a good one and the sentiment is important but the financial side of it made me really angry,” she said.

Kirby used a freedom of information request to find out that the council pays £30 for each tribunal case.

“The more that was being uncovered about the process the more I felt I need to tell people about this,” she said.

Ms Kirby said Lewisham was also going to tribunals over cases that were “clear cut”, such as one fine that was issued after the 28-day time limit was up.

“The council knew that but they were hedging their bets,” she said.

A Lewisham Council spokesperson said: “We would ask motorists to respect the restrictions to avoid receiving tickets. We have seen an 93 per cent drop in contraventions since the camera enforcement started, so the majority of people are following the rules.”

LDRS logoGráinne Cuffe is the Local Democracy Reporter for Lewisham. The Local Democracy Reporting Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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