Hundreds of tickets have been wrongly issued to people who drove through the Valley Gardens bus gates because of a technicality.
Since January, Brighton and Hove City Council has been fining people driving through bus gates on the A23 at the bottom of North Road and Trafalgar Street and at the entry to St Peter’s Place.
However, several motorists have appealed to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal, and a handful have been successful because of the way the original traffic regulation order (TRO) was drafted.
Instead of a length of road, the wording only specifies a single point, which means that under current UK law, it can only be enforced by police as a moving traffic offence – although this is set to change.
The council has now reworded the TRO to specify the exact area vehicles are not allowed to drive through, which came into force on June 9 for the two on the A23, and June 18 for St Peter’s Place.
However, any tickets given to motorists before the TROs were amended now have a much better chance of being overturned on appeal – if they have not been paid.
One motorist successfully appealed a ticket he was given for driving through the Gloucester Place gate.
Adjudicator Deborah Gibson, wrote to him upholding his appeal. She said the term bus gate is interchangeable with bus lane in terms of enforcement – but the way the TRO was worded meant they weren’t technically a bus lane.
It says: “The problem is that the TRO does not apply the restriction to any area of road. It applies to a single point.
“Most bus lanes are defined as applying to between specified points, or for example a specified distance from a specified point.
“This alleged bus lane applies to vehicles travelling in particular directions, but not over any specified area of road.
“It follows that I consider the restriction is validly made and may be enforced as a moving traffic contravention but not as bus lane contravention . . . the council has no power to issue this PCN.”
The council was asked how many tickets had been issued in these locations and had not replied at the time of publication.
However, in October last year, it told Brighton and Hove News it had issued 5,000 warning notices in the first month the A23 bus gates went live.
And a Freedom of Information request revealed more than 800 tickets had been issued from January 8 to 15 June this year at the St Peter’s Place camera – which anecdotally is less confusing than the A23 ones.
Of these, just seven were appealed, three of which were upheld, three not contested by the council, and one resolved with a consent order – i.e. the appeal was closed after an agreement between the council and the motorist.
A council spokesperson said: “The bus gates in Valley Gardens are an important part of our traffic management strategy in this busy area of the city.
“All our signage in the area telling people about the bus gate and access restrictions meets legal requirements.
“Ahead of enforcement we issued warning notices to motorists letting them know of the new restrictions and that they could be issued with a penalty charge notice (PCN) in the future.
“We have also communicated with local businesses in the area about the road layout to pass onto suppliers and others making deliveries / collections.
“Anyone issued a PCN has the right to appeal and can do so through the council’s website.
“The issue highlighted by the Traffic Adjudicator in this instance centred on a technical aspect of the wording of the traffic regulation.
“We assessed this and have amended the wording to clarify the restriction in place.
“This has had no effect on previous or ongoing enforcement, and we are continuing to issue penalty charge notices.”
Bus lane or gate fines must be challenged with the city council first, and motorists have 28 days to do this.
If the council upholds the fine, the motorist has a further 28 days to appeal to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal.
If a motorist has paid the fine, they can no longer appeal it.