29 May 2014

Blues & twos give Barnet man the blues

"Blues & twos" is the slang term for the blue lights & siren
Mr Mustard met a man yesterday who has ended up paying for a PCN because he went into a bus lane to get out of the way of an emergency ambulance. The ambulance is clearly showing in the photographs that Mr Mustard has seen, about 100m behind the car of Mr Blues. The council rejected his appeal on the grounds that it was too far away when he moved across.

Most drivers make room for emergency ambulances and sometimes put themselves in contravention by doing so. You hope that common sense will prevail and that you won't get a camera issued PCN, never mind that you will challenge it and be turned down. Cash hungry councils may take a different view.

What does the Highway code say? This, in paragraph 219:

Emergency and Incident Support vehicles. You should look and listen for ambulances, fire engines, police, doctors or other emergency vehicles using flashing blue, red or green lights and sirens or flashing headlights, or Highways Agency Traffic Officer and Incident Support vehicles using flashing amber lights. When one approaches do not panic. Consider the route of such a vehicle and take appropriate action to let it pass, while complying with all traffic signs. If necessary, pull to the side of the road and stop, but try to avoid stopping before the brow of a hill, a bend or narrow section of road. Do not endanger yourself, other road users or pedestrians and avoid mounting the kerb. Do not brake harshly on approach to a junction or roundabout, as a following vehicle may not have the same view as you.

So that means you don't enter the bus lane during its hours of operation as you are then at the mercy of an appeal clerk who may not show any and you will have to challenge your PCN all the way to PATAS to get a fair hearing.

Don't go over the stop line at traffic lights. The ambulance will have to wait or choose to go onto the other side of the road. 

Don't mount the kerb to make the road wider for the ambulance to get through. It will have to proceed along with the rest of the traffic until there is no oncoming traffic or the road is wide enough for you to safely pull to the side out of the way.

Mr Mustard can see how other road users might sound their horn at you to get you to try and move out of the way (and they shouldn't actually sound their horn when stationary at traffic lights as that is an offence, to sound ones horn when stationary or when driving after 11pm and before 7.30am in a built-up area except when another road user poses a danger) but if you are at a camera monitored junction, which in London will most likely include all yellow box junctions, you will have to cock a deaf ear.

Mr Mustard would be very interested to have comments added by any ambulance drivers as to why the ambulance was not using the bus lane given that there were 4 cars in the all traffic lane and the bus lane was empty (until Mr Blues went into it) and what instructions are given to ambulance drivers in their training about bus lanes before they are allowed to drive a blue light ambulance.

Mr Mustard would like to add that he has taken and passed the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motoring) motorcycle test and also retakes the ROSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) advanced motorcycling test every 3 years and is currently at Gold standard. He has also been in the back of an emergency ambulance to a hospital when he collapsed, for no apparent reason, in the street in his early twenties and a passing nurse stopped and came to his aid.

Is it only Mr Mustard or do you find the flashing blue lights are so bright now that it is hard to see and that slows down your ability to get out of the way?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

28 May 2014

The Finchley Literary Festival is under way - remaining events

Thursday 29th May
1pm The Reader Organisation - With Ruth Cohen - North Finchley Library N12 9HP

Try coming to a taster “Get into Reading” group, being developed across Barnet. This is an innovative shared reading model, bringing people together in weekly groups to listen to poems and stories read aloud. Thoughts and experiences are shared; personal and social connections are made. There will be two sessions lasting one hour, max. 9 people each, and  starting promptly at 1.00 pm and 2.30pm.

2-4pm - How to get your poetry published - Maggie Butt

Maggie Butt takes you through the things she wishes she'd known when she started out in the curious world of poetry publishing, from magazines and competitions to pamphlet and book publication, readings and festivals. Using the story of her own experience, she takes you through the highs and lows, the mistakes and successes and reads a few poems from her books. The workshop will be followed by an Open Mike. Poets welcome to read one poem of up to 40 lines. Click here to register.

7pm Ally Pally Prison - Friern Barnet Community Library, N11 3DS Maggie Butt 

A multi-voice, illustrated presentation from Maggie Butt’s surprising and moving first world war history, 'Ally Pally Prison Camp'. Maggie Butt’s book and presentation combines the prisoners’ own words from letters and memoirs, with evocative photographs, full colour paintings by internee George Kenner and her own poems plus The Story of Private John Parr with Mick Crick.

Friday 30th May
10.30am - Walk 'Literary Finchley' - Guide: Paul Baker - meet Finchley Central Station

An ancient road links two villages, Church End and East End, better known today as Finchley Central and East Finchley. Along the way, you'll see lands once owned by the Knights Templar, and a former Manor House which is haunted by a suspected lover of Anne Boleyn. You'll also see Finchley's connections to famous writers -- Charles Dickens, Sir Edmund Gosse and Will Self, amongst others -- and painters -- William Hogarth, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Ford Madox Brown. We'll also hear about the writings of Inky Stephens, and the close connection between his father and one of the greatest and most dearly loved of the Romantic poets. £5.00 - pay on the day

2-4pm – Dragon’s Pen – Church End Library, N3 1TR

Pitch your novel or story in five minutes to literary dragons for instant feedback and a chance to win mentoring sessions. FULLY BOOKED

4-6pm - Getting Started - North Finchley Library, N12 9HP

With Allen Ashley FULLY BOOKED

7-10pm - Spoken Word
Friern Barnet Community Library, N11 3DS
Donation of £3 requested for this event. “Spoken Word Showcase” hosted by Allen Ashley. Including readings from Amy Bird, Andrea Michael and Bill Todd. Come along and hear a great range of fiction, poetry and non-fiction. Reading spots allocated on strictly first come, first served basis. Enquiries to: greenacrewriters@gmail.com

Saturday 31st May Stephens House & Gardens*, N3 3QE

10.30-12.30 - Blogging & Twitter Workshop - With Emily Benet

Workshop: Developing Your Online Author Profile - Blogging & Twitter
The workshop will explore ways of developing your online presence to build a readership and increase your chances of publication. It will focus on blogging and using Twitter to best effect. There will be plenty of tips and advice! To reserve a place at this workshop see link below or email: greenacrewriters@gmail.com Tickets £15.00

2-4.45pm Main Festival Event - Tickets for this event are £5.00 and include a delicious tea or coffee and Danish pastry. Click here to book ticket

Caitlin Davies is the author  of five novels, including The Ghost of Lily Painter (2011), which is is based in part on a true story - two Edwardian baby farmer who were hanged at Holloway Prison in 1903. Caitlin has also written five non-fiction books, and several short stories

Alex Wheatle (MBE) is the author of several novels. His first book, Brixton Rock (1999), tells the story of a 16-year old boy of mixed race, in 1980s Brixton. Its sequel, Brenton Brown, was published in 2011. In 2010, he wrote the one-man autobiographical performance, Uprising.Alex Wheatle was awarded an MBE for services to literature in 2008.
Rosie Fiore is the author of two bestselling novels and a novella, all published by Quercus, and two novels published by Struik in South Africa. Her novels This Year’s Black and Babies in Waiting were both long-listed for the Times Literary Awards in South Africa. She also works as a blogger and copywriter. Rosie lives in Mill Hill with her husband and two sons.

Greenacre Writers
Will be reading from their writing as well as Greenacre Guests: 
Emily Benet and Andrea Michael

4.45-6pm - Panel
Men Writing as Women and Women Writing as Men
Alex Wheatle, Caitlin Davies, Rosie Fiore, Miriam Halahmy.  
Chaired by Allen Ashley. 
There will be an opportunity for audience questions also.

*Formerly Avenue House

27 May 2014

After Office Hours (AOH)

Mr Mustard is grateful to the Barnet Residents Association for alerting him to the possible loss of the above building. If you live in High Barnet you really should join (it costs only a few pounds a year) so that you are alerted to potentially detrimental changes to the area. Look to the roof line of the building and you'll see why we need to keep it. If the mock front was to be removed (a bit of a pattern in High Barnet at the moment, removing frontages, with the battle still raging over the Swiss Chalet where it seems difficult to get the council's planning department to do what the Planning Inspector and the local populace requires, the immediate reinstatement of the frontage as it was before the wood cladding was added, and the out-of-keeping glass doors of Shoku which are in a conservation area at the Hadley end of the High St) this once lovely building could be lovely again.

Anyway, the following email landed in my inbox

Dear Member


A planning application has been lodged to demolish the former After Office Hours building at 70 High St and replace it with a modern edifice. You can see the application by going to the Council website; Planning Applications - B02129/14. You can post an objection online and we ask that you consider doing this please. We have found before that large numbers of objections can have a significant influence on applicants, the planners, and ultimately the Planning Inspectorate. But please note time is short - THE DEADLINE FOR OBJECTIONS IS 29 MAY

The documentation supporting the application is not very extensive and includes artists' impressions that seem to give a clear understanding of what the proposed façade will look like. You can post an objection as long or as short as you wish. Here are some points you might consider, but you need not include them all and we ask that you express your objection in your own words as far as possible:

(a) This building is located in a section of the Wood St conservation area that contains many historically significant buildings. Nos 52/54, 56, 58 and 66 are Statutorily Listed. Nos 50 and 60/62/64 are locally listed (the multiple numbers relate to a single building). Any development should be sensitive to this context as a starting point. This proposal ignores any such considerations. 

(b) Whilst some shop fronts have not been well treated, at first floor level and above the row of buildings from no 50 to no 72 is well preserved with features such as windows and chimneys surviving as outstanding features. Shop fronts can have sympathetic finishes put back at relatively low cost. The applicants assertion that the conservation area is so damaged that no 70 is not worth preserving is not justified.

(c) The roofline of no 70 forms a pleasing graduation from the low-roofed Bull to the south to the higher no 72 to the north. Raising the roof of no 70 to a height that matches no 72 would totally alter the appearance and character of this section of the High St, leaving the Bull looking oddly incongruous, being wedged between much higher buildings to each side. No 70 should be no higher than at present.

(d) The modern façade would not only clash with surrounding buildings, it would destroy the historic integrity of the entire row, detracting from the setting of the important Listed buildings.

(e) The replacement façade is poorly designed by trying to squeeze four floors into a space that is not high enough. The design has windows that bear no relation in shape and size to those in adjacent historic buildings, and the mansard roof evidently lacks any historical context.

(f) The existing pitched roof and surviving chimney are attractive features which complement the conservation area and should be retained.

(g) The existing façade below roof level is a modern replacement and rebuilding would be welcome. But a replacement should complement the conservation area, not clash with it.

(h) The applicant is seeking to justify demolition because of the poor state or repair of the building. But the large hole in the roof and removal of flashing are recent problems. The failure of the owner to exercise a duty of care in protecting the fabric of the building should not be justification for demolition.

(i) The proposal to construct accommodation for 15 students plus a shop on the ground floor is overdevelopment. There is no amenity space for the students and there is no access at the rear. 

Best regards

BRA Chairman

and Mr Mustard was just getting around to making an objection when he got another email telling him the application had been withdrawn.

It is too early to tell what attitude our planning officers (Capita) and local councillors (Longstaff, Perry & Prentice in case you have never heard of them) might have had but given the lax way in which the Swiss Chalet has been dealt with, the glass frontage that remains in what used to be the Crown & Anchor (closed 1999) and is now an office building with an unsympathetic amount of glass on the ground floor and hideous adverts on the upper floors Mr Mustard has no great confidence in officialdom. You only have to look at how development has rapidly progressed in the last 4 years all over the borough, the planned Brent Cross scheme and Church Farmhouse Museum to see that the council isn't that interested in old buildings.

So, rather than replying on the council and councillors, best join the Barnet Residents Association and/or the Barnet Society.

If you want to be notified by the council by email of each new planning application in your area, you can sign up here.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

26 May 2014

Bank Holiday Monday parking

A typical Bank Holiday walk
On most bank holidays Mr Mustard gets phone calls and tweets about where it is safe to park and he has to check, so here is his guide.

You can park for free in the London Borough of Barnet

in Car Parks
in Resident Permit bays
In Pay & Display / PayByPhone
in Business Permit Holder bays
on school zig-zags

You must avoid, as you will get a PCN, on / in

Single yellow lines during operational times
Double yellow lines (24 hours a day)
The pavement
Disabled bays
Bus lanes
"Double parking" i.e. more than 50cm from the kerb
Bus stops
Loading bays (except dual use ones where you can park during the permitted hours)
Dropped kerbs (except outside a CPZ with the permission of the resident and only then if the dropped kerb serves just the one property)

Mr Mustard hopes that you find this short guide useful.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

22 May 2014

Please vote today by 10pm

No story from Mr Mustard today.

He hopes you have already been to vote and if not that you will do so by 10pm when the polls close but please don't leave it that late.

Mr Mustard wants to see some fresh faces at the Town Hall and for that he needs you to vote.

21 May 2014

You pay your parking ticket and then the bailiff clamps your car!

This story simply shouldn't have happened.

23 September 2013 - The Chipping Barnet 'D' CPZ zone, near High Barnet tube, was extended. The lady in question, Miss H, a lady in her late seventies, applied twice for a permit but partly due to the judicial review result her applications didn't get processed as her cheque was for too much money. This left her without a permit when the zone started. A dispensation was issued but no-one told Miss H that it would expire.

3 October 13 - A permit was issued but not put in the car immediately.

9 October 13 - A second PCN was issued, for £110 (the first one was paid in full).

11 October 13 - An informal challenge was made.

11 November 13 - A Notice to Owner (NtO) was issued.

?? November 13  - Formal representations were made in response to the NtO.

28 November 13 - The council (NSL) reject the representations but said £55 would be accepted if paid within 14 days of the letter (no time allowed for delivery as is customary).

6 December 13 - A cheque for £55 is sent by Special Delivery at a cost of £6.22

11 December 13 - The cheque is cleared.

18 December 13 - A Charge Certificate is issued for £165 less a credit for the £55 paid. This is a blunder of the first water and is an illegal demand for money and threatens to register the non-existent debt at the county court and then send in the bailiffs. Miss H was abroad on holiday. This was one reason why she had paid up (she wouldn't have paid anything if she had been introduced to Mr Mustard sooner than she was).

9 January 2014 - An Order for Recovery is issued.

24 January 14 - TASK bailiffs write to say they are investigating and will respond within 28 days. Mr Mustard doesn't know what prompted this letter from TASK apart from some correspondence from Miss H that was probably sent to the council (which means NSL who own TASK).

18 February 14 - The Warrant of Execution is issued.

18 February 14 - The standard first letter is sent by TASK bailiffs.

20 February 14 - Miss H phones the bailiffs and is asked to send proof of payment (which Miss H will have sent off.)

14 April 14 - A bailiff arrives at the home of Miss H, clamps her car and then knocks and asks for £408.52 which she pays as she needs her car to get about.

16 April 14 - Mr Mustard visits Miss H at home at the request of a charity who happen to know of his expertise. Miss H is upset, shocked, annoyed, seriously out of pocket and innocent of any wrongdoing.

16 April 14 - Mr Mustard emails the Parking Manager at Barnet Council (thus cutting out NSL) and outlines the above. His email includes the following paragraphs:

What should happen now is that the sum paid to the bailiff of £408.52 is refunded as it was not due for payment and in compensation the PCN value paid, of £55, should be refunded. A letter of apology should also be sent by NSL Ltd to Miss h as she has had the worry of this to deal with and can ill afford to be without the funds paid to the bailiff.

This whole mess has come about because permits were dealt with in one place (I have not studied it in detail but Miss H did try to get a permit in good time and had two applications returned by the looks of it, probably due to the judicial review of the price), customer service calls in another and enforcement in a third. The system that is in existence in Barnet is simply not fit for purpose. I know it is not your decision to be set up in this way but it isn't properly serving the residents of Barnet.

Our senior citizens should not have to suffer the attentions of bailiffs as a result of the administrative incompetence of NSL Ltd, the parking enforcement contractor of the council.

30 April 14 - Mr Mustard reminds the parking manager that he is waiting.

30 April 14 - The parking manager says he is awaiting feedback (presumably from NSL who must now be in a right sweat - this event isn't going to do their KPI any good)

20 May 14 - Mr Mustard reminds the parking manager that he is waiting.

20 May 14 - Mr Mustard receives a full reply.

Dear Mr Mustard

I apologise for the lateness of my reply. I had again been called away unexpectedly.

Miss H should not have been subjected to the Bailiffs nor paid any additional money. I confirm that a full refund of all monies paid to the Bailiff will be refunded with immediate effect. I confirm that our service provider have internally identified why this error has occurred and will be taking appropriate action. An apology letter will be sent to Miss H confirming the refund.

I apologise on behalf of the Council for the poor level of customer service Miss H has experienced. As a means of making amends I have requested 40 visitors vouchers be sent to Miss H at her address in zone D, they should arrive by the end of the week.

If I can be of any further assistance please do not hesitate to email me.

Kind regards

Parking Manager

So, there is the happy ending that you were promised.

What went wrong? Just about everything.

Permit issuance was in-house back in September (it is now being dealt with by Capita which won't make things any better) and instead of rejecting the application the council should have banked the larger cheque and then sent a refund. That way Miss H would have had her permit on the day the zone extension came into force. Why this was still a problem when the council had declared on 2 August that they would not contest the parking judicial review decision is unclear.

The council should have cancelled the PCN as they knew Miss H had been issued with a permit. The fact that it had not been put in her car within a few days is not a heinous crime and she should have been given the benefit of the doubt.

When the council sent their letter of 28 November 13 they probably didn't set the computer properly to stop all action if £55 was paid by 11 December 13.

When the payment of 6 December was banked no-one thought to stop all further processing as this was an agreed full and final settlement. This is probably because cheques were sent, at that time, to Worthing and that is the offices of RR Donnelley and their job probably finished at the point of banking. It would be up to someone at NSL in Croydon to review the list of receipts and then update the processing software. That probably wasn't anyone's job either.

It looks like TASK, who shouldn't even have been involved at 24 January 14, as there isn't a Warrant in existence at that date, didn't properly follow up the promise made in their letter. NSL should not have given the query to their sister company TASK to investigate and really shouldn't use their own group company bailiff at all as there isn't sufficient scrutiny of what the bailiff does or enough independence.

It looks like the proof of payment sent in by Miss H didn't get looked at properly.

The amount charged by the bailiff was excessive (this one was under the old pre 6 April rules) even if the £117 was owing, which it wasn't.

So this is what you get when you outsource your parking enforcement to NSL and TASK. The mistreatment of pensioners. That is what One Barnet means. Remember this when you vote tomorrow. You didn't find this One Barnet outsourcing in the 2010 Conservative manifesto. What has been left out of the 2014 one? more of the same but worse?

Mr Mustard will see the apology. It had better be a good one.

At least he hasn't got to send this case to the Local Government Ombudsman, unlike Harrow Council who haven't yet twigged that when Mr Mustard sends them a complaint, that there will be plenty to complain about which they should take seriously. In Harrow they (the Newlyn employed bailiff) have removed a car that doesn't belong to the person named on the warrant which is a big no no. The compensation due will be sizeable. Mr Mustard gave them every chance to return the car and be reasonable.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Printed, promoted and published by Derek Dishman, 21 Carnarvon Rd, Barnet EN5 4LX

20 May 2014

Paying for parking took 59 minutes

The below is an edited version of a recent PATAS adjudication of a PCN issued to a motorist who parked in the Stanhope Road Car Park and did their best to follow the system, if you can call the way we have to pay a system.

There is no dispute as to the whereabouts of vehicle on the material date; namely at a location requiring the purchase of time to park and the display of a paid-for time voucher and/or facilitating the purchase of parking time by telephone payment.

The Enforcement Authority assert the absence of payment/display in respect of the said vehicle.

The Appellant denies liability for the ensuing Penalty Charge Notice on the basis of the prevailing circumstances as contained in her written representations, supported by mobile device screen-shots and Freedom of Information documentation.

The evidence upon which the Enforcement Authority rely to substantiate the assertion comprises the certified copy Penalty Charge Notice, extracts of governing Traffic Management Order provisions, and computer-generated notes made by the Civil Enforcement Officer together with photographic evidence: still frames revealing the said vehicle in situ, and the applicable signage notifying motorists of the restriction.

The Appellant indicated the full circumstances encountered at the location and clearly described the sequence of events to the Enforcement Authority from the outset, including forwarding copy mobile device screen-shots demonstrating the on-going exchange commenced  at 9.41 a.m. and resolved at 10.40 a.m.

The Penalty Charge Notice was issued during the currency of such payment transaction.

A motorist must be afforded sufficient reasonable time to comply with the requirements of a parking regime, whether that be attending at a voucher-dispensing machine, obtaining and completing a visitor's permit, or completing a telephone payment transaction.

I find the Appellant's evidence to be cogent and credible and I accept it in its entirety.

The points raised by the Appellant deserved proper consideration and due response, I therefore carefully examined the wording of both the Notice of Rejection itself, and the Case Summary to assist in my determination as to whether or not the Enforcement Authority had accorded requisite consideration as it is obliged so to do. 

I note an overt failure to adequately identify/rebut or retort to the Appellant's issues in the Notice of Rejection; a 'belief' that cancellation would be 'inappropriate' does not meet the criteria. Further I observe there to be a similar lacking of compliance of the same in the Case Summary, which infers that since the scenario did not come within an Appeal Ground it was not entertained.

I concluded that the Enforcement Authority had not discharged its fundamental duty under Regulation 5(2)(b) of the Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions (England) Representations & Appeals Regulations 2007 which I find to be a 'procedural impropriety' on the part of the Enforcement Authority.

Accordingly, this Appeal is allowed. 
(thus the PCN was cancelled)

What a state of affairs when a motorist has to faff about for 59 minutes making payment in a Car Park where the minimum time you can pay for is 30 mins at a cost of 75p (per the council website) and where the business they wanted to transact might only have taken 15 minutes.

If this doesn't show that Pay By Phone is not the solution, when to insert real coins would have taken less than a minute, then what does?

What an omnishambles.

Well done to the motorist for sticking it out all the way to PATAS, Mr Mustard salutes you. NSL, acting as the council's agent, garner no credit for making the motorist go all the way to PATAS at Islington and for doing a poor job of answering the motorist's challenge.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

19 May 2014

NSL = No Stamps Licked?

Mr Mustard was out on Saturday morning and the postman left him one of those lovely little postcards that says "please pay us £1.53 if you ever want to see your post alive again" or something like that.

Mr Mustard thought that he had better go to the Royal Mail depot at Longmore Avenue to collect whatever the item was.

When Mr Mustard saw the envelope he thought it was suspiciously like the usual Barnet Council parking envelope and to his surprise it was. This was the (redacted) letter that it contained.

Now for some background. Last month Mr Mustard accepted instructions for a PCN for which an informal challenge had already been made. The legislation says that you can make representations, plural, before the Notice to Owner is issued. Mr Mustard had some new ones that the motorist hadn't thought of and so he sent them in. Barnet Council parking enforcement (NSL), in the unhelpful manner of parking departments nearly everywhere, refused point blank to consider them. Mr Mustard will be claiming this is a procedural impropriety once he reaches PATAS and relying on the Hackney Drivers Association Ltd legal case.

The other point that Mr Mustard will make about his informal challenge is that the Statutory Guidance of the Secretary of State, which councils are obliged to have regard to, says "It is in the interests of the authority and of the motorist to resolve any dispute at the earliest possible stage. Authorities...should always give challenges and representations a fresh and impartial consideration" (Councils are partial to income so that is a big ask). Mr Mustard will let you know what happens when this argument gets a proper airing.

The letter itself is down to the usual dire standard. Mr Mustard sent an email, not a letter. The council do not refer to the date of that email nor does the line conclude "of 21 April 14" which would read much more nicely. 

The word "investigaet" is not one he understands.

"the PCN as issued correctly" also rather loses him.

This is the first communication from the council to Mr Mustard about this PCN so he has not previously been advised of anything. Mr Mustard thinks it should be "wished" not "wish" as the letter is talking about a date in the past.

The refusal to consider "further correspondence" "at this stage" (without this stage being defined) is an attempt to fetter Mr Mustard's client's rights which is outside the spirit, if not the letter, of PCN law.

Finally, the letter is dated 7 May 14 but was only received at Longmore Avenue sorting office on 16 May 14. That isn't serious on this occasion but Mr Mustard wonders if other formal Notices have been similarly delayed or posted without the due postage being paid for. All Notices should be sent by first class post. They should also be posted on the same day as they are dated.

Mr Mustard will be making formal representations in due course and then filing an Appeal with PATAS if the representations get rejected, as they so often do.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard