350,000 parking fines illegally issued

Controversial practices brought to light

IT has been revealed that almost 350,000 parking fines, worth £23 million, are believed to have been illegally issued to London motorists.

In 2010, a ticket issued in a suspended parking bay was ruled unlawful because Camden Council was not authorised to display the signage which precipitated the fine. 

According to the BBC, it has now been discovered that 14 London borough councils still have no authorisation for these signs, while others spent years issuing the fines without proper authorisation for the signage. 

The Department for Transport (DfT) is responsible for designing road signs in almost all circumstances, which authorities must adhere to - but it has never produced a template for a suspended parking bay sign (pictured left). If there is a situation in which the DfT has not designated signage, the law is clear that councils must seek permission from the transport secretary to produce their own signs. Without this permission in place, the sign has no legitimacy whatsoever.

A typical inner London council suspends more than 1,500 parking bays a month usually so that building work can be undertaken. 

According to the BBC, the following councils still have no DfT authorisation for their signsGreenwich, Southwark, Westminster, Barnet, Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Ealing, Hillingdon, Kingston-upon-Thames, Merton, Redbridge, Sutton and Waltham Forest.

The following councils received authorisation in 2010 or after: Camden, Islington, Hackney, Lambeth, Harrow, Wandsworth, Havering, Barking and Dagenham, Brent, Newham, Hounslow, Lewisham and Haringey.

Richard Bentley, a former police officer and signing consultant, said: 'Each council is fully aware they have to apply to the secretary of state if they want to use signing that isn't set out within the regulations.

'It is astounding authorities ignore the very laws there to help them.'

A London Council spokeswoman defended the use of the signs, citing a Court of Appeal decision from 2011 which ruled that 'technical failure to comply with Traffic Signs Regulations does not invalidate signage so long as ssigns are clear and motorists are not misled'.

'This ruling has effectively prevented further successful appeals on the grounds of a technical failure to comply with the regulations where no harm can be shown.'

However, some have responded that inventing a sign without authorisation amounts to more than a 'technical' failure to follow the law.

Neil Davies, a motoring solicitor at Caddick Davies has pointed out that 12 councils sought authorisation even after the 2011 Court of Appeal judgement, suggesting they knew it was still required.

According to Westminster City Council, London boroughs make roughly £67 per parking ticket - a total revenue more than £23m.