Council's £300,000 risk for 'misleading' parking signsBy Stephen Lloyd
February 04, 2010
CONTROVERSIAL parking restriction signs in Fleet town centre are misleading, a national adjudicator has ruled.
It follows two appeals in which drivers have had their £70 parking fines thrown out.
In the first, driver Jon Louch was given a ticket after parking in a bay outside Subway in Fleet Road at 1.17pm on January 30, 2009.
Meanwhile, Peter Romain was hit with a £70 fine after parking in the same bay on February 27, 2009, at 1.55pm.
Both appealed, saying the signs were misleading – a view backed by parking adjudicator Hilary Tilby.
The ruling has delighted Fleet resident Peter Ashford, who for the last three years has said the signs are illegal and the council should refund nearly £300,000 it has collected in fines.
Mr Ashford, who represented Mr Louch at the appeal hearing, said: “There will be several thousand drivers reading this article who have been forced to pay penalties because the council wrongly refused to accept that the signs were not clear to understand.
“After the enormous cost to me in time and money to fight this deplorable issue, and because the council has always insisted that they have been in the right, I feel I have been vindicated in my three-year battle with Hart Council to remove the confusing parking signs from Fleet Road.
“Since May 2006 Hart Council has always insisted that the irregular parking signs in Fleet Road have been perfectly clear to understand and they have refused to listen to anyone who said differently.”
The adjudicator decided that, although each of the two parking notices were individually legitimate standard notices, the council had failed to put up signs that were clear and not ambiguous.
Mr Ashford said: “The adjudicator agreed that the 11-fold increase in penalty charges issued after the unsatisfactory parking signs came into operation was more than enough indication that the signage was not effective.”
Mr Ashford said the Department for Transport (DfT) gave him a copy of a written admission by Hampshire County Council, dated February 2008, that it knew the signs were not fit for purpose.
The adjudicator also criticised the DfT for failing to deal with the fact that the signs it had approved for use in Fleet Road “were clearly not doing the job”.
She allowed both appeals for the reason that the parking signage was and remained misleading.
Mr Ashford said: “It follows from Mr Louch’s test case, which properly examined for the first time the unsatisfactory parking signage, that all of the penalty charges paid in Fleet Road as a result of the parking signage that was always misleading, and that the council knew was misleading but failed to correct, should be refunded.”
Hart said it has removed the ‘misleading’ limited parking signs from Fleet Road and is now pressing the DfT for alternative solutions for the problem. It pointed out that the adjudicator confirmed the signs and lines in place were legal and compliant with the Traffic Regulation Order and dismissed most of the points raised in the appeal.
The council admitted the adjudicator ruled the signs were misleading but pointed out she confirmed that the council had done its very best to create clear signs.
It also warned the parking places are still restricted to goods vehicle loading only between 9am and 3pm from Monday to Friday.