Bungling council 'could refund drivers £200k due to unclear' road sign

Council is forced to refund more than 1,000 drivers over £100,000 in fines due to confusing road sign blunder…so do YOU know what it wrong with it?

  • Lambeth Council to repay 1,000 drivers it wrongly fined for driving near a school
  • Bungling local authority will be forced to fork out at least £106,000 for error 

A blundering council will be forced to repay more than 1,000 drivers it wrongly fined after admitting its bizarre road signage outside of a school was unclear.

Lambeth Council may have to pay back more than £106,000 in fines it wrongly dished out to motorists after cars were banned from driving outside a primary school in Balham, south west London, from 8:15am until 9:15am and between 2:45pm to 3:45pm.

The sign in question, which stood outside Henry Cavendish School for around six months, had intended to ward off drivers using a tiny section of the road during busy pick up and drop off times, but many motorists said the instructions were unclear.

Some 1,635 drivers were hit with fixed penalty notices for failing to adhere to these rules, with hundreds appealing against the bizarre regulations and complaining that the sign was not in a clear position.

But after lobbying by residents and opposition councillors, the bungling local authority caved and agreed to refund all fines issued from May until December 9, when the signs were finally changed. 

 This road sign outside a primary school in Balham, south west London has caused Lambeth Council a six-figure headache. Can you work out what’s wrong with it?

Drivers ultimately claimed the signs were too difficult to read and did not make clear that cars were to be blocked from only using parts of the road between the peak hours.

The penalty notices issued to more than 1,600 drivers were reduced to a £65 charge if they were repaid within two weeks.

In all, Lambeth Council would have to repay up to £106,275 if all 1,635 fines were paid at the £65 level, rising to as much as £212,550 if all the PCNs were paid at the higher rate. 

The borough has permanent traffic restrictions around 20 schools in its area, with the first car-free zones established in 2019. 

New signage in Hydethorpe Road was meant to tell drivers not to use a short section of the road during school drop off and pick ups, but many said it was not obvious the area was closed during these times. 

Lib Dem Councillor Donna Harris said the signage outside Henry Cavendish Primary School was poorly located and difficult to read safely while driving.

She also slammed Lambeth Council for taking until December to admit its mistake and eventually replace the signage.

Cllr Harris, leader of the Lambeth Lib Dem group, said: ‘This is a right shambles from Lambeth Council, which has angered many residents in my ward who’ve been unfairly fined.

‘You have to ask: Why didn’t the council put the right signage up in the first place and why did it take them months to admit their mistake?

‘I’m pleased the council has agreed to repay the fines but those who were hit with fines will be disappointed there was no contrition or apology.’

During a council meeting last Wednesday, Labour’s cabinet member for sustainable Lambeth and clean air, Cllr Rezina Chowdhury, ignored Cllr Harris’ request to apologise to residents for the council’s error.

Lambeth Council may pay back more than £106,000 in fines it wrongly dished out to motorists after cars were banned from driving outside a primary school in Balham, south west London

Cllr Chowdhury said in answer to Cllr Harris: ‘Yes, as residents raised this issue with us, we have improved the signage.

‘I can confirm that we will cancel all PCNs issued up until December 9 [when the signage was updated] and refund any PCNs that have been paid.’

Lambeth Council insisted its signs were still ‘compliant’ with their legal responsibilities but accepted they should have been in a better position.

A spokesman said: ‘We acknowledged that the signage in place at this location, although compliant, needed better positioning.

‘We have therefore taken the decision to refund any penalty charge notices issued and will cancel any that are outstanding.’

Due to the high number of PCNs issued, Cllr Harris called on any motorists who had not received a refund to get in touch through her official office.

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