This reader has supplied their name and address but has asked not to be named.

I have had the misfortune of having to engage with Merton Council over the last 18 months in relation to a number of bus lane and parking tickets.

I have been driving in London for over 15 years without incident or incurring any traffic tickets, but have been issued with nine in the last 18 months.

All nine have eventually been cancelled either by Councils or PATAS, the independent adjudicator.

Does one think that this increase in councils' propensity to issue tickets has anything to do with recent budget pressures?

Regardless, my advice for any member of the public issued with a Penalty Charge Notice, particularly by Merton is as follows:

  • Challenge every ticket. Many are illegally issued, either with road signage or road marking being incorrect or missing. Read the Traffic Signs Manual - particularly Chapter 3 (road signs) & 5 (road markings). Available for free online.
  • Ask the Council to provide the Traffic Management Order (the local by-law) which allows them to implement a bus lane or parking restriction in the first place. Often they forgot to complete the paperwork so tickets are issued illegally. (Merton did this with the previous no right turn out of Wimbledon station - they had to cancel thousands of tickets).
  • Engage in correspondence with the Council. This gives them the opportunity to make a mistake in the paperwork. Mistake by the Council = cancelled ticket.
  • Merton Council often reference legal precedent and case law in their communications. These are usually not relevant to the case in hand, or incorrectly interpreted. The Council was criticised by PATAS in one of my hearings for trying to claim that a law that hadn't been made, applied in my case. They cannot make up their own laws - and they regular appear to try to do so.
  • Merton appears to have a policy of simply rejecting every request for cancellation until you take the case to PATAS (which is free) regardless of its merits. They will only have someone who knows the rules to review a case immediately before a hearing - Merton will often cancel a PCN at this eleventh hour.
  •  Always request a hearing. By settling early, you have the option of paying 50 per cent of the fine. Ok, by going to PATAS you risk having to pay the full fine, but the hearing is free, can be done by post and does not require any legal experience or other costs. My experience is that PATAS usually look to find in favour of the motorist if a Council is being jobsworthy or acting unreasonably in any way - even if technically a ticket has been correctly issued.

Obviously I do not condone illegal driving or parking.

However, similarly I cannot accept councils issuing tickets for minor and trivial offences.

The introduction of the bus lane on Hartfield Road is a revenue generating exercise - if it were not, the council would not have included the figures in its annual budget - the outcome of doing so is that they will have a budget deficit if the bus lane does not bring in the required revenue.

The introduction of mobile CCTV cars in Merton is a very worrying development - and does nothing to improve road safety.

It means residents live under a fear of prosecution whenever driving in the Borough. If a vehicle delays a bus in a bus lane - then fair cop.

If not, whilst the Council tries to hide behind the 'fair implementation of the policy' argument, the issue of a PCN does nothing for road safety or traffic flow.

Residents should contact their local Councillor and request that the Council:

  • focuses their attentions elsewhere;
  • removes the bus lane in Hartfield Road;
  • and ceases using mobile CCTV vehicles in Merton.

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