ticket machine obstructing highway
empty street early Saturday afternoon
unlawful signs in North Camp
unlawful unenforceable parking restrictions during airshow
nuisance parking in local roads during airshow
'The lines do not conform to the regulations, therefore the borough has no lawful authority to enforce the legislation.' -- Peter Guest, former president of the British Parking Association
'That is absolute rubbish. It does not mean the traffic regulation order becomes unlawful.' -- Mike Bamber, parking official, Rotten Borough of Rushmoor
'Council staff should work to improve the life of residents, not the other way round.' -- David Clifford
'I believe traders are suffering by the loss of casual "pop in" shoppers who are driven to areas with free parking, if recent visits to North Camp and Aldershot are anything to go by, as many spaces are empty much of the day.' -- Barry James
North Camp lies on the south side of Farnborough facing Aldershot. It was the original centre of Farnborough, and like neighbouring Aldershot, came into being with the arrival of the Army during the reign of Queen Victoria.
With Aldershot and Farnborough now ghost towns, North Camp is the only success story in the borough. It has a good range of independent shops, a wide range of restaurants.
But instead of trying to replicate this success story across the borough, the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor now seems determined to kill it off, at least that is the only conclusion that can be reached with the introduction of ticket machines in streets in which it was hitherto free to park.
The introduction of the ticket machines has had a detrimental impact on trade. Streets that were once busy, are now empty. The displacement parking is causing nuisance in neighbouring streets.
A council cannot just on a whim or as a revenue generating scam introduce car parking into an area. There has to be a rationale, a reason, the council has to carry out surveys, carry out consultation, demonstrate the impact.
Car parking restrictions can be part of traffic management, car parking management, and may generate revenue, but cannot be introduced for the purpose of generating revenue, ie car parking cannot be introduced as a revenue generating scheme.
Road Traffic Act 1991 (Traffic Management and Guidance for London under section 63):
' ... Local Authorities should not seek to use [parking] charges primarily as a means of raising additional revenue or as a means of local taxation. They should, instead, see the charges primarily as a means of securing the traffic and parking objectives discussed in this guidance.'
Why therefore was car parking restrictions introduced into North Camp? No one seems to know, least of all the council.
There was no problem to be resolved. At least no problem that anyone was aware of. The council cannot claim there was a problem as they had not carried out any studies or surveys. There was a minor problem, that of a tiny minority of selfish retailers parking all day outside their shops which queered the pitch for everyone else. This was easily resolved by introducing time limited parking of say two hours, which gives everyone the opportunity to conduct whatever business they have in North Camp. Be it a long lunch at one of the many restaurants or a game of snooker at the local snooker hall.
No consultation has been carried out by Rushmoor, or at least not that anyone would notice or was aware of.
At a lively public meeting held a few weeks ago the consensus of those who attended was that no consultation had been carried out, that the scheme was not wanted.
No work has been carried out as to the impact of the scheme on surrounding streets.
Of the retailers who I have spoken to, only one was in favour. She thought it was great that the road was empty of cars as it meant people had somewhere to park when shopping in North Camp!
Rushmoor has thus introduced a car parking scheme to solve an apparently non-extent problem but in doing so has caused a loss of business to local traders and loss of amenity in neighbouring streets which now have nuisance parking.
Well done guys, you could not have done better if you tried. But, it gets worse.
The markings in the street are unlawful. The signs are unlawful. The parking restrictions are thus not enforceable, nevertheless the council knowing this has not only continued levying charges and fines, but has refused to refund any fines.
Parking official Mike Bamber who was responsible for the scheme has refused to entertain any refund!
'It could mislead them, making them believe they are in the right when they are in the wrong. If anyone comes to the council asking us for a refund, the answer is going to be no. Even if we chose to offer a refund we would have no way of assessing any claim.'
No consideration of the merit of a claim. Prejudge the issue before any claim be made. If 'no way of assessing any claim' then how did the council assess to impose any fines?
In Lincoln, following a test case, the City Council is having to repay all the fines it had unlawfully levied because lines had not been correctly painted in the street.
If a council levies charges and fines, knowing that it has not the powers to do so, then it is engaging in fraud, a criminal activity. It is engaging in deception and dishonest behaviour.
It has been drawn to the attention of Roland Dibbs, deputy leader of the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor and the councillor responsible, that the lines are not lawful, do not comply with traffic regulations.
The response of Dibbs was that it does not matter how they are painted!
'The areas are clearly delineated, and whether the lines are solid lines or dotted lines doesn't make any difference.'
Contrary to what Councillor Dibbs has to say on the matter, it actually does matter how the lines are painted and is a strict requirement under the road traffic legislation.
The guidance on parking on the highway is quite clear and unambiguous:
'The manner in which the ranges of possible restrictions are to be marked and signed is prescribed by the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002. This weighty, comprehensive and detailed volume sets out the precise requirements, size, type, colour and permitted variants of every sign and road marking.'
'A restriction marked with signage that is not in accordance with the regulations may not be enforced.'
Rushmoor parking official Mike Bamber has made similar crass comments.
Lines and signs have to comply with the road traffic regulations. You cannot, for example, as some people try, stick your own disabled parking sign outside your own home.
Once it was drawn to the attention of Dibbs that the markings were unlawful, the parking restrictions should have been suspended until further notice.
Instead Dibbs has willfully allowed the scheme to continue even though it has no lawful basis. This opens Dibbs and the council to criminal prosecution as the council is obtaining money from an unlawful scheme. There would appear to be reasonable grounds for an investigation by Hampshire Police for misconduct in public office and fraud (willfully operating an illegal scheme to collect money without any lawful authority).
Dibbs sits on the National Transport Appeals Service (NTAS) committee which manages the adjudication service, to which one can appeal if one is in dispute with a council over a parking fine. In light of his actions and comments, can it be said that Dibbs is a fit person to serve on this committee? Does he not bring NTAS into disrepute? How can anyone have any confidence in the appeal process in the light of the crass comments by one of its committee members?
In North Camp there seems to have been a slapdash attempt to paint new lines by a man with a brush.
The old lines should have been burnt off, new lines painted with a line painting machine.
The new lines do not appear to be the regulation width, thus still unlawful.
At a public meeting, Rushmoor parking official Mike Bamber was asked what data he had, what surveys he had carried out. He claimed it was based on his own empirical studies. He seemed not to understand the word 'empirical', that it means you have to collect data. To him empirical seemed to be his own personal opinion. He failed to understand that empirical meant that at some point one had collected data.
Under section 45 of the Road Traffic Act (1984) the council is obliged:
'In determining what parking places are to be designated under this section the authority concerned shall consider both the interests of traffic and those of the owners and occupiers of adjoining property ...''
Under Section 122 of the Road Traffic Act (1984) the council has to consider 'the effect on the amenities of any locality effected ...'
At the recent public meeting it was made clear that trade was being effected by the parking restrictions, that amenity was effected for those in adjoining streets who suffered nuisance parking displaced by the parking restrictions. One only has to walk along the main shopping street in North Camp on a Saturday afternoon to find it half empty, when before it would have been chockablock with cars.
The reaction of the council was that they know best, the parking restrictions are there to stay.
There are two car parks in North Camp but they are little used. Partly because few know of their existence, one is hidden between two roads, the other on the other side of a busy main road and hidden behind bushes. Partly because neither car park is safe for either the occupants of the car walking through the car parks or their parked car.
If people have to pay to park outside the local shops, they will just drive to the nearest Tesco superstore where parking is free. Not only does this hit local businesses, it also hits the local economy as money that would have been recycled within the local economy is now drained out of the local economy. It is also bad for the environment.
The council should be doing everything possible to help local businesses, not kill them off.
Ideally we should be encouraging people to walk or cycle to local shops and many people who shop in North Camp do walk or cycle. If the council does not help local shops, even worse, kills their trade, then local people would then have no choice but to get into their cars to do their shopping elsewhere.
The people of Aldershot and Farnborough, ie Rushmoor, rank among the least fit in Hampshire.
Many of the shops though are specialist shops, to which people travel from further afield.
When a council introduces a car parking scheme (note introduce not impose) it is required to consult. Some are statutory consultees such as the Police, Road Hauliers Association and Freight Transport Association. Others they are expected to consult are local interest groups (though at their discretion).
The requirement to consult is not a nicety, or a nod to local democracy or public participation, it is a legal requirement, known as the Primrose Hill Ruling, or in strict legalese Regina v Camden London Borough ex parte Mark Dyson Gordan Cran and others (1995). And it has to be done with a fair and open and receptive mind. Simply going through the motions is not acceptable.
In this landmark case Mr Justice McCullough sitting in The Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand in London ruled:
'Further, the committee's decisions ... show that, like the report on which their decisions were based, all that mattered was that its was the council's policy to introduce controlled parking throughout the borough. This was treated as axiomatic; only the order of priority remained for decision. This was unlawful. Policy must not be followed slavishly; each case must be considered on its own merits. This is so elementary that no citation of authority is required.'
'Finally I would mention ... This repeated the policy, which had been adopted ... that consultation on new and revised CPZs [Controlled Parking Zones] should be confined to design details and concluded that in adopting this principle it was not considered that the committee had acted improperly in the exercise of its powers. The answer, as a statement of belief was no doubt true, but the belief was mistaken. In my judgment Regulation 5 (1) (d) obliges local authorities to consult about the principle as well as the detail of a proposed CPZ.'
The most damning part of his ruling was:
'The duty to consult may be imposed by statute or may arise because the parties to be consulted have a legitimate expectation of consultation which results either from a promise or from an established practice of consultation ... The process of consultation must be effective; looked at as a whole it must be fair. This requires that consultation must take place while the proposals are still at a formative stage; those consulted must be provided with information which is accurate and sufficient to allow them to make a meaningful response; they must be given adequate time in which to do so; there must be adequate time for their response to be considered; the consulting body must consider their response with a receptive mind and in a conscientious manner when reaching a decision.'
As a result of his ruling, the order in Primrose Hill was quashed and cost awarded against the council.
This ruling has implications that go far beyond imposition of Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs). A council is legally required to consult. And 'consult' does not mean merely going through the motions, as is the norm in Rushmoor.
In relation to the North Camp parking restrictions, not only was there no consultation prior to the introduction of parking restrictions (the ticket machines are believed to have been ordered last year), but when a public meeting aired its views and a petition was delivered bearing several hundred signatures, the council decided they knew best, the ticket machines were there to stay.
To introduce an unlawful parking scheme that is unenforceable is to waste public money. But it is worse than that, the council cannot spend money in areas for which it has no authority. To do so is a matter for investigation by the District Auditor.
Were a councillor or councillors to authorise expenditure for which the council has no authority, and should that expenditure exceed £2,000, then those councillors can be obliged to refund the money and be disbarred from public office.
The ticket machines cost £3,000 each. In just one short road there are six machines.
It looks like Dibbs is facing the prospect of refunding rather a lot of money and being disbarred from holding officer.
Should a councillor bring either his office or the council into disrepute, they can be referred to the Standards Board for England and barred from office if found guilty.
There would appear to be more than sufficient grounds to refer Dibbs to the Standards Board for investigation.
Traders in North Camp who are suffering loss of trade, local residents who are suffering loss of amenity through nuisance parking, have more than sufficient grounds to ask the Local Authority Ombudsman to investigate a case of maladministration.
The ticket machines used in North Camp are mains-powered, incurring extra installation costs and running costs. For this reason most local authorities these days use solar-powered machines. Why did the council not check out the options, rather than waste taxpayers money? It is totally unacceptable that the council makes a major capital purchase without thoroughly researching the market and buying the best long-term cost-effective solution for the taxpayer.
On good authority it has been learnt that the ticket machines were purchased prior to any consultation, thus the decision had already been predetermined making a farce of any so-called consultation.
In North Camp, there are various ways in which restricted parking could be implemented, assuming of course if it be shown there be a need, which has not so far been shown. One such is a disc with a clock, as used by disabled drivers. When such a scheme was put to Mike Bamber, he failed to understand what such a scheme was, even though they are in common use all over the UK including the neighbouring local authority of Surrey Heath!
New road traffic legislation came into force earlier this year. A senior officer of the council had to sign a declaration that traffic signs and road markings are in accordance with the regulations. As they were not, someone within the council made a false declaration to the Secretary of State. This may be a criminal offence.
One requirement is for the signs to be clear and visible. They are clearly not in North Camp as many are obscured by hanging baskets. One could arguably stay longer than the permitted time as it is not clearly visible.
Any action by the Secretary of State based on a false declaration by Rushmoor, may make all orders in Rushmoor invalid leaving the council with no enforceable parking!
Leeds City Council is currently under criminal investigation for obtain monies from operating an unlawful scheme, for deliberately and willfully operating and enforcing parking restrictions that it allegedly knew to be wrong. The City Council has been reported to the police for 'willful misconduct in public office, malfeasance and fraud'.
There would appear to be more than sufficient grounds for a similar police investigation into the activities of the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor.
Another local authority has been reported to the District Auditor under Section 17 of the Audit Commission Act.
There would appear to be more than sufficient grounds to report Rushmoor to the District Auditor.
Traders in North Camp who have seen their businesses adversely effected would have more than sufficient grounds to refer Rushmoor to the Local Authority Ombudsman on grounds of maladministration, and request that the Ombudsman order Rushmoor to pay compensation to cover their losses.
It would then be up to the local taxpayers or the District Auditor if councillors like Dibbs should then be surcharged to recover these costs.
There would in any case be grounds for councillors to be surcharged for approving expenditure or incurring costs outside of where the council has lawful authority.
There would be more than sufficient grounds to apply for a Judicial Review.
North Camp is not the only area where Mike Bamber has been responsible for unlawful schemes, ill-thought schemes or gross misconduct. He seems to make quite a habit of it.
During the recent Farnborough International Airshow he implemented a residents only car parking scheme in roads close to the airfield. Again no proper consultation. He was forced to admit that the scheme was unenforceable as the signs were not lawful, but did not consider it to be a waste of public funds!
This was more than a waste of public funds, it was expenditure of public money for which the council had no authority. A matter for the District Auditor.
The impact of the unlawful parking restrictions was to displace nuisance parking into neighbouring streets that hitherto had not had a problem with nuisance parking during air shows.
In another part of the Farnborough, a ticket machine was placed in a small car park that serves a pharmacy, a dentist and surgery. The car park had hitherto been free. It was seen as a tax on the sick. Following an uphill battle by the ward councillor David Clifford, the machine was not installed.
As David Clifford notes on his blog:
'This follows a very clear call from Ward Councillors backed up by a petition signed by 440 people and the Councils own survey, which confirmed what Ward Councillors and residents were saying.'
But begs the question: Should not the council survey have been carried out before the policy was implemented, as the council was legally obliged to do, not after?
Yet another unlawful scheme? Yet another expenditure of public money for which the council had no lawful authority?
The obvious place where to start consultation would have been the pharmacy, the dentist and the surgery. All three were against the imposition of charges, and had good grounds for holding that view. Maybe that is why they were not consulted. The first they were aware was when told by their ward councillor David Clifford, when the decision to implement had already been taken
David Clifford had an uphill struggle to get the proposals overturned.
Consultation is not going through the motions, it is about having a receptive mind, listening to and taking on board what is said. Not the cabinet deciding what the scheme will be and not even telling the ward councillors.
The Primrose Hill parking scheme was quashed because the council did not have a receptive mind.
The first David Clifford was aware of the parking restrictions was when he and a fellow ward councillor noticed a notice on a lamppost.
'I am livid about this. What value are ward councillors if they’re completely and utterly ignored? We are the people who are responsible for our ward, we should have a say in this.'
The attitude of Roland Dibbs was they could not tell everyone of their intentions or respond to their views!
'A decision was taken last year to control it by pay and display. If every cabinet decision was made and ward councillors could pop up and say "we don’t like this" then you’d never get any work done.'
This was all too typical of the arrogant contempt Dibbs has for the views of other people. His crass comments are also an admission that the action taken by the council was unlawful.
It was only after David Clifford kicked up a stink, that the council decided to carry out a survey. That was after a decision had already been made to implement the scheme.
Apart from Dibbs and Bamber, it would be difficult to find anyone in favour of a ticket machine and charges for the Salisbury Road car park. The local beat officers were against, dental surgery, doctors' surgery and pharmacy were against, local residents were against. Even a survey carried out by the council showed there was no case for the introduction of the scheme. A survey that was carried out after the decision to implement. And yet ward councillors and local residents had an uphill battle to prevent imposition of the scheme.
If there was a case against the scheme in Salisbury Road, there is a far stronger case against the scheme in North Camp.
Aldershot is experiencing similar problems. Ticket machines introduced with no consultation. As with North Camp, traders are losing business. Aldershot is already a ghost town, charges for street parking is the last thing that is needed, unless the council is determined to deliver the final death blow.
Residents in Farnborough town centre were for many years caused a statutory nuisance by Asda making unlawful lorry deliveries during curfew hours to their superstore in clear breach of planning consent. Intervention by Bamber only served to make the situation worse.
More recently the same residents have had problems with Bamber over a new car park.
A car park has been constructed outside the library on land that was used by kids to kick a ball around, informal public space. The library shuts at 7pm, the car park shuts at 6pm! Few people know how to access the car park, which is via a very indirect route, a spur off a delivery route putting these who use it in conflict with delivery lorries or indeed are even aware of its existence. It is little used. The rationale from a Bamber is that it serves as an overspill car park for a cinema that does not exist, and for which planning permission expired some years ago and in a town centre in which there is no shortage of car parking spaces! He made his application using a map that was at least ten years out of date. When local residents made their views known, they were treated with arrogant contempt and their views ignored.
A recent request for information from Bamber on the North Camp scheme was met by the same arrogant contempt and a refusal to supply the information promptly, even when that request was turned into a formal Freedom of Information request. It took intervention by the Borough Solicitor to sharply focus his mind and ensure that the request would be processed within 20 working days. Councillors requesting information have been treated with the same arrogant contempt.
Bamber is empire building. It's quite pathetic, an empire of ticket machines!
Pete Castle, Angry traders pack parking fee meeting, Farnborough News, 27 June 2008
Pete Castle, Markings make parking restrictions 'incorrect', Farnborough News, 11 July 2008
Pete Castle, Wardens fail to enforce parking rules, Farnborough News, 18 July 2008
David Clifford, Points straightened, letters, Surrey-Hants Star, 17 April 2008
David Clifford, Common Sense rules over Clockhouse Car Park, 24 April 2008
Rebecca Connop Price, Parking plan sparks row, Surrey-Hants Star, 17 April 2008
Rebecca Connop Price, Car park fees thrown out, Surrey-Hants Star, 1 May 2008
Peter Guest, Parking in North Camp Area of Farnborough, July 2008
H M Holmden, Active wardens can negate meter need, letters, Surrey-Hants Star, 1 May 2008
Barry James, Pay to park is not sound, letters, Surrey-Hants Star, 24 April 2008
Keith Parkins, Council caves in to Asda, Indymedia UK, 19 February 2005
Keith Parkins, North Camp traders suffer, Indymedia UK, 21 July 2008
Primrose Hill Ruling [Regina v Camden London Borough ex parte Mark Dyson Gordan Cran and Others (1995)]