Motorists given £55k in LTN fines after flooding forced diversion

Flooding - UkNewsinPictures
Flooding - UkNewsinPictures

When a burst water main caused traffic gridlock in a London borough, council bosses promised not to fine anyone who had to drive through a controversial low traffic neighbourhood (LTN).

But, a local resident has now forced Labour-run Lewisham Council to admit it broke its promise and in fact issued 421 penalty charge notices (PCNs) worth £54,730 in the Lee Green LTN that day.

Annie Kirby, 51, made the south east London local authority cancel all the fines and refund more than £18,000 of payments it had already banked, setting a record for successful appeals.

Mrs Kirby, a mother of three, said a water main had burst in the early hours of Jan 6 "bringing chaos to the roads”.

Streets within the LTN were pretty much the only ones motorists could use. But, whoever drove down them faced a fine because of automatic number plate recognition cameras the council installed to enforce its road closures," she added.

At 11am, the council posted on social media that “PCNs will not be issued to anybody” because the flooding had forced motorists to use streets it had closed.

“I took a screenshot of the tweet, just in case,” she said, adding how the LTN in July 2020 was loathed by many residents who claim it has increased both congestion and pollution on nearby main roads.

Annie Kirby - Heathcliff O'Malley
Annie Kirby - Heathcliff O'Malley

Mrs Kirby soon heard of people having been fined, with many paying the £65 reduced rate to avoid the full £130 penalty, unaware of the council tweet stating that fines had been suspended.

“It simply wasn’t fair,” the dementia support worker continued. “The council was in the wrong by saying one thing and doing another, as well as taking people’s money they had said they wouldn’t take.

“But what was staggering was the way the council showed no humility when admitting they had messed up.”

After Mrs Kirby pursued the council with a series of formally lodged questions, civil servants finally admitted they had issued 421 tickets and collected £18,785 in payments.

Mrs Kirby said: “Lewisham Council didn’t seem to care how these fines upset people. They came at the worst time when people are enduring a cost of living crisis.

“I don't want to think they were doing it on purpose, but the LTN is already unpopular, so getting something like this wrong makes people think the council has no concern for its residents.”

It was only last week, nearly three months after the mains pipe burst, that bosses at Lewisham finally apologised and agreed to cancel all the PCNs and refund the money it had taken.

'Apologises for any confusion'

A council spokeswoman said: “As a result of an internal miscommunication in relation to the implementation of this policy, a number of PCNs were issued in error on January 6.

“While many of these PCNs have already been cancelled, we have cancelled any outstanding PCNs issued on this date and are refunding anybody who has already paid a PCN issued in error on this date.

“We have written to anybody who was issued with a PCN on this date in error to update them on this. We apologise for any confusion in relation to this issue and any inconvenience caused as a result.”

She added that the “internal miscommunication” was a result of a “delay in information being cascaded between relevant teams”.

She admitted the council had not spotted the error, adding that it was grateful to those who “highlighted the situation”.

A spokeswoman for Lewisham Liberal Democrats said because all 54 seats in the council were Labour controlled there was no effective opposition “which makes it difficult to hold Lewisham Council to account”.

She claimed how it had proven “particularly incompetent” at introducing new road schemes because it failed to inform and consult local residents on its plans.