Bus Lane Contravention: Clapham Park Road

Have you received and paid for a penalty charge notice for a bus lane contravention from Lambeth Council on the A2217 Clapham Park Road?

If you did before 21st December 2009 then you may be entitled to a refund.

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In January 2009 I got a PCN on this road. I spent a year querying it (obtained from manually-operated CCTV — camera number 139) for a whole bunch of reasons (you don’t have to be an expert on these things to see a ton of things wrong with the whole set up). I finally received confirmation that the bus lane was non-compliant on 16th March 2010 and did not have to pay the charge.

The letter from Lambeth council outlined why they originally thought I was in breach of the law but then went on to state:

This [referring to the original decision to PCN me] was also the council’s position until 21 December 2009. The Council had commissioned an independent review of the Clapham Park Road bus lane by WS Atkins Consulting following a number of complaints and contradictory rulings by PATAS. In summary the result of the review was that the bus lane was not enforceable due to technicalities relating to length of the entry taper and the positioning of signage.

I’m not sure about tapering but if you go to google maps you can clearly see that the sign in question as you approach the bus lane does not state hours of operation. Now there is some debate as to whether that means a driver is to assume that the hours of operation are therefore 24×7. If not, then the sigange is indeed wrong but if so, and we are to assume in the absence of any times that it’s 24×7, then there is vast inconsistency throughout Lambeth borough and, I suspect, the whole of London. In fact this signage on Clapham Park road is the only example I can find of a 24×7 bus lane operation where the signage does not explicitly state this and if you drive on a bit further down Acre Lane you will find similar signage which states the hours of operation as being 24 x 7 excluding Sundays. There are other examples all over Lambeth where 24×7 is indicated by the phrase “At All times” and other such wording. This inconsistency will stand you in good stead if you wish to appeal.

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If you are thinking of engaging a council in correspondence you might be interested to know:

  • I had to do it via the Local Government Ombudsman as the council, without informing me,  passed my own letters onto a 3rd-party agency called Astron who simply sent unsigned acknowledgements in reply to each letter. As yet, Astron have not replied to a single letter.
  • Don’t complain about the lack of response to the council’s complaints manager. In my case he simply passed my complaint onto the Lambeth traffic Department who passed it on to Astron — I got the standard ack in reply.
  • Even if you are penalised on this road post 21/12/09 then you should still appeal. This notorious south London junction has a lot of things that mitigate any bus lane contraventions: not least the fact that because of the complex layout you, the driver, are forced to take a right-hand fork in order to turn left, something which comes very unnaturally to most drivers and is yet to be tested in front of a magistrate as far as I know.

UPDATE FROM Lambeth Council

6th August 2010

We suspended enforcement of this on 21/12/09 to carry out remedial works to the signs and lines. Enforcement recommenced on 22/01/10.  During this time no Penalty Charge Notices (PCN) were issued.

Although the signs and lines needed improving at this location the vast majority of drivers complied with the regulations and did not enter into the Bus Lane. Any motorist who received a PCN had the opportunity to challenge it within the statutory procedure at the time.  Although we had no legal obligation to reopen cases, we have reconsidered, on a case by case basis, any correspondence we received from a motorist who previously challenged the PCN on the grounds the signage was inadequate or confusing.

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