COVENTRY council has finally admitted its errors which broke its own city centre parking rules after campaigners’ questions and motorists’ fines – and has painted over yellow lines that should not have been there.
A further judgement is expected – potentially within days – from the independent Traffic Penalty Tribunal regarding the controversial restricted parking zone after 60,000 fines were issued to drivers.
The six-year-old zone bans parking in all city centre streets except for designated parking bays – and all yellow lines were supposed to have been removed.
We covered the issue on our front page two weeks ago, in an article headlined: ‘Council ‘breaking its own rules’ on parking.’
We had highlighted how photographs taken by road safety campaigner Richard Heneghan showed at least five streets still had double yellow lines. He had claimed this further confused motorists, as well as a lack of road signage to notify them about the ‘no parking’ rules.
Two weeks ago, a council response statement to us – AFTER we presented the evidence to it – had claimed double yellow lines were only showing in streets where black paint over them had worn off.
But, last week, we quoted numerous city centre traders who said the yellow lines in their streets had never been removed.
Now the council has admitted its statement was wrong – 10 days after it was pointed out to them it was wrong.
A spokesperson for Coventry City Council said: “When the Observer brought to our attention that not all yellow lines have been covered in the city centre, we inspected the whole zone.
“Over the last week we have had a team out to rectify any issues. This work will be completed as soon as possible.”
The yellow lines have in recent days been painted over with black paint in Lamb Street, Bishop Street, Silver Street and Tower Street, and the work is expected to be completed soon in The Burges.
The responsibility rests with Labour cabinet member for city services, Jayne Innes. Last year, she also faced questions after the independent tribunal repeatedly ruled in favour of motorists fined for using bus gates. It repeatedly concluded the signage was “inadequate”.
Despite the rulings, Coun Innes repeatedly implied in public statements that Coventry city centre’s signage was correct and compliant with the government Department for Transport (DFT) regulations – including in press statements and in the council chamber, using the phrase “read my lips” and referring to her lipstick.
Conservative councillor Tim Mayer said: “I am really pleased to see double yellow lines have now been covered but extremely frustrated that this is following nearly two years of stonewalling from the cabinet member of city services on any issue we have raised with her, ranging from bus gates issues, PCN (Penalty Charge Notice) issues and now this.
“..The visits and findings from the Chief Adjudicator (for the tribunal) have not been shared with councillors or included in any City Services meeting, so either the cabinet member has been kept in the dark and therefore has no control of her brief, or has been complicit in keeping the visit or findings quiet.
“When mistakes are made we need to fix them and move on, not ignore requests and questions at the expense of the city’s residents.
“The high numbers of people being fined here point to issues with the operation, not as the cabinet member would have us believe that it is all irresponsible motorists deliberately infringing the rules.”
Coun Innes responded: “Coun Mayer’s comments are both inaccurate and personally offensive.
“Firstly, I do not stonewall councillor colleagues. I frequently meet with councillor colleagues and local residents to discuss issues across my portfolio – from bins and cemeteries, to taxis, roads signs and potholes, gritting, flood risk, the tip, fleet, street cleaning, public realm and the crematorium.
“Coun Mayer should be aware that the Department for Transport is sovereign when it comes to England’s roads. Coventry’s Restricted Parking Zone was designed and then implemented six years ago in partnership with the DfT. It was extended two years ago.
“The Adjudicator visited Coventry in August 2017 solely to see the RPZ (restricted parking zone), which had been in place and operational for five years at that time. Eight months later Coventry City Council has not been notified of any findings or outcomes from her visit.
“I would ask Coun Mayer to consider whether his allegations are really in keeping with the behaviour the public should expect from an elected councillor.
“It is simply untrue to say I have claimed “all Coventry’s signage is correct”. We have 15,000 signs in and around Coventry, and from time to time they can be stolen, damaged or become redundant.
“However, the Department for Transport and independent professional opinion (engineers Atkins) have confirmed our existing Bus Gate signage is compliant with current legislation.”
However, the Observer has seen evidence from the Department for Transport that it considers not all bus gate signage in Coventry is DFT authorised and compliant.
And, as this newspaper has reported, the council WAS notified of the repeated tribunal rulings that the bus gate signage was inadequate, including on the road’s surface and roadside. The problems also included poor visibility for the driver caught behind a double-decker bus. We had quoted some of those rulings.