30 September 2012

Barnet Council - Putting the Community Last

Last week Mr Mustard reported on the case of a lady given a parking ticket whilst collecting a death certificate when she inadvertently parked in a bay that you couldn't see and where the sign was 9 feet in the air, the sort of trick that you expect from a spivvy private car park wheel clamping firm and not a local authority - but we are in Barnet. The parking ticket has now been cancelled and the fine refunded following Mr Mustard's intervention which should not have been necessary.
Mr Mustard's friend Miss Feezance keeps an eye on Barnet's performance at the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service (PATAS). It is to them you go when commonsense has not prevailed at Barnet although you need to appeal on technical grounds as the Adjudicators at PATAS do not have the right to exercise discretion, they simply apply parking law and they are all legally qualified.
Anyway, Mr Mustard noticed an entry yesterday on his friend's blog, here, ( a site worth bookmarking for when you get a parking ticket yourself ) about someone who is heavily disabled getting a parking ticket and Barnet Council and NSL continuing to process the ticket through the system without any thought for their fellow human beings.
This is from the Adjudicator's summary of why the appeal was allowed:

The appellant attended the hearing before me together with Mr D who was the driver of the vehicle on the date in question and Mr R as his representative.

Parking adjacent to a dropped footway is prohibited by virtue of Part 6 Section 86 of the Traffic Management Act 2004.

The relevant provision of the Traffic Management Act 2004 provides:

"In a special enforcement area a vehicle must not be parked on the carriageway adjacent to a footway, cycle track or verge where-

(a) the footway, cycle track or verge has been lowered to meet the level of the carriageway for the purpose of-

(i) assisting pedestrians crossing the carriageway,
(ii) assisting cyclists entering or leaving the carriageway, or
(iii) assisting vehicles entering or leaving the carriageway across the footway, cycle track or verge; or

(b) the carriageway has, for a purpose within paragraph (a)(i) to (iii), been raised to meet the level of the footway, cycle track or verge."

The appellant, Mr B has cerebral palsy and is severely disabled, he is confined to a heavy motorised wheelchair which he operates with his fingers. I accept that it was necessary for the vehicle to be parked close to a dropped kerb so that Mr B could exit the vehicle via the rear door of the vehicle using a ramp lowered from the vehicle to the ground.

It is clear to me that there is compelling mitigation in this case.

The Act does provide an exemption to allow loading/unloading under Section 86(5).

The exemption only applies where the loading/unloading cannot reasonably carried out in relation to those premises without the vehicle being parked adjacent to the dropped kerb and the vehicle was parked for no longer than necessary and for a period of no more than 20 minutes.

It is clear that without the use of the dropped kerb it would be very difficult and painful for Mr B to go from his vehicle onto the kerb to access the café. Therefore I am satisfied that the wheelchair with Mr B in the wheelchair could not reasonably be unloaded in relation to the café without the vehicle being parked adjacent to the dropped kerb.

Mr R states that he is aware that there is no requirement to sign the prohibition but he put to me the argument that the Authority had caused confusion and misunderstanding as to the prohibition of parking against a dropped kerb by marking it with a single yellow line as opposed to a double yellow line.

I accept that the Authority having marked a single yellow line against the dropped kerb is open to the criticism advanced by Mr R. If the Authority decides to place a road marking by a dropped kerb then it is under a duty to ensure the road marking is such that it gives the motorist adequate information as to any restriction or prohibition. I find the single yellow line by a dropped kerb to be confusing and misleading.

In addition Mr R put to me the fact that the encroachment against the dropped kerb was a minor encroachment. He produced measurements to show that the vehicle was only 49 inches across the dropped kerb. In my view this is not a minor encroachment and the appeal cannot succeed on this basis. (this argument might work if you were only a foot across a dropped kerb that is 12 feet wide - de minimis are the usual words used)
I note the Authority in the Notice of Rejection has referred incorrectly to the prohibition arising from the London Local Authorities and Transport for London Act 2003. In fact the prohibition stems from the Traffic Management Act 2004.

I allow the appeal as I find the single yellow line to be confusing and misleading and in any event this is a case where the unloading exemption applies.
Now this parking ticket was issued by Barnet Council before the contract was taken over from NSL. NSL however, must have become responsible for all of the part processed tickets as they took over the back office (that decision to sack them all and move the work out of Barnet  doesn't look like the best one to Mr Mustard) so what conclusions can we draw?
Barnet Council is insensitive and lacks commonsense.
NSL also touched this appeal and must have prepared the file for submission to PATAS. They are equally as heartless as Barnet Council.
NSL don't know parking law!
Why are these cases even reaching PATAS,  the third and final appeal stage?
The primary focus of the parking contract is to make money and not to sensibly and sensitively apply the rules to keep traffic flowing and the roads safe.
Issue all the tickets you like Barnet Council to people parked on double yellow lines on a junction as they are deserved but lay off people who need your help and the human touch.
Yours frugally
Mr Mustard

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