18 February 2015

Oranges don't bear fruit for the council

Last week a reader (who had reluctantly paid his PCN) asked Mr Mustard to write about how he had been caught out by the orange lined spaces in the Woodhouse Road Car Park which spaces had already featured twice in PATAS reports and so have obviously caused a bit of confusion. Then along comes a suberb critique of those same spaces in the Castle Road Car Park (these orange spaces seem to be only in North Finchley - unless you know otherwise) and Mr Mustard doffs his cap to the motorist concerned:

The main question to be considered is whether by virtue of the exceptional nature of the car park, which contains within it permit holder only spaces, it was necessary for the authority to provide extra signs in order for the restrictions to be fair.

The appellant says that he accepts that the notice board in the car park displays information that there are permit holder only spaces in the car park and that the spaces are marked out in orange. His case is that he has not known of a car park that contained permit holder only spaces before and that these were an exceptional feature. He submits that the authority ought to have displayed, in addition to all the other signs, extra signage adjacent to the spaces marked out in orange to show that these spaces were not ordinary pay by phone spaces but in fact permit holder only spaces.

The case of the authority is that the permit spaces are marked out in orange and details of the permit restrictions were outlined on the car park notice board.  It submits that the onus is on the driver to be aware of the restrictions as set out on the notice board.  It further submits that the car park restriction sign indicates that the orange bays are for car park permit holders only - (although it does not seem to have produced evidence of this sign - unless it is the same sign as the notice board: but this has not been made clear to me). The authority accepts that the appellant would have paid for parking had he parked in a non-permit holder space. It submits that it is not a justifiable reason to allow an appeal on the basis that motorists are unfamiliar with the area because it submits that the responsibility lies on motorists to familiarise themselves with the restriction in force prior to making their way.  It also submits that the contravention is one of strict liability and so unusual circumstances cannot be taken into consideration. It submits that motorists should check the signage in place before stopping.

I find as fact that: reasonable and adequate information was not made available to the appellant in the particular and exceptional circumstances of the car park; the authority has not acted sufficiently fairly to the appellant in all of the circumstances of this particular car park.

I accept the evidence of the appellant that he believed at the time that he was legally parked and that it is unusual to have permit holder only spaces in a car park.

I am unable to be satisfied that the authority has acted within the concept of fairness in the lay out of the car park because I accept the evidence of the appellant that the placing of permit holders parking places in a car park is unusual. The exceptional nature of the car park requires that the authority needed to display additional and appropriate signs in order for it to have discharged its duty to bring to the attention of the motoring public (including the appellant) reasonable and adequate information.

I am unable to accept the submissions of the authority that it is not a justifiable reason to allow this appeal because the circumstances are unusual. I am satisfied that the exceptional circumstances of the car park were not made sufficiently clear to the appellant who was not familiar with the lay out of the car park.

I am unable to accept that the contravention is merely one of strict liability and does not accommodate unusual circumstances because I find that further considerations can also apply to those merely of strict liability, and that they do in this appeal.

The authority also states that motorists should check the signage in place before stopping, however it has not supplied any evidence of signage that is sufficiently clear to warn motorists of the exceptional presence of permit holders only parking spaces before they stop.

The authority has raised further points which I have considered but which I do not find to be material.

Hopefully some signs will go up adjacent to the bays now. They could also usefully appear next to disabled bays and the red market day bays in Lodge Lane Car Park (some exist but insufficient & not adjacent enough)

If you have been caught you too can use the above information to help you write your challenges. The PATAS case to quote in support of your argument (decisions are not precedents) is number 2150011443. You can search their public register here (now called London Tribunals).

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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