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High Court hears landmark judicial review of Barnet parking policy led by Brian Coleman

PUBLISHED: 16:21 03 July 2013 | UPDATED: 17:30 03 July 2013

David Attfield (front, right) with supporters outside the Royal Courts of Justice. Picture: Polly Hancock.

David Attfield (front, right) with supporters outside the Royal Courts of Justice. Picture: Polly Hancock.

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Campaigners in Barnet are awaiting a landmark High Court ruling set to have national ramifications following a judicial review of controversial parking charge hikes spearheaded by Cllr Brian Coleman.

Brian Coleman oversaw the parking charge hikes while Barnet Council's cabinet member for environment. Picture: Polly Hancock. Brian Coleman oversaw the parking charge hikes while Barnet Council's cabinet member for environment. Picture: Polly Hancock.

East Finchley resident David Attfield, 46, brought a two-year battle against Barnet Council’s controlled parking zone (CPZ) charges to the Royal Courts of Justice yesterday.

His legal team argued the council had acted unlawfully by hiking parking charges to pay for other transport projects.

The father-of-two, who lives within a CPZ in Summerlee Avenue, has been forced to pay an extra £60 a year for a residential parking permit, as well as an extra £3 each time a visitor parks, since the changes, driven through by Cllr Coleman, then cabinet member for environment, were introduced by Barnet Council in April 2011.

Mr Attfield said: “In my area of East Finchley, holding a children’s party was costing £40 or more just so guests could park for a couple of hours.

“An elderly resident who enjoys regular visits from her children could spend £800 a year or more just so that they can park.

“It’s clear that the council saw CPZ residents as having easy pockets to pick when they wanted to splash money elsewhere in the borough.”

Martin Westgate, QC, representing Mr Attfield, told the High Court about an exchange of e-mails between Cllr Coleman and council officer Pam Wharfe in December 2010 discussing proposals to hike CPZ charges to plug a shortfall in the council’s annual profit.

Mr Westgate described the discussions as the “genesis” of the controversial parking hikes which were later approved by the council’s cabinet and introduced in April 2011.

The changes increased the price of residential permits in all Barnet CPZs from £40 to £100 annually and increased visitor permits from £1 to £4.

Under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, Mr Westgate argued that the council could only raise parking charges for “traffic management” purposes in the CPZ, not to simply increase revenue elsewhere.

He said: “There are no clear words in the Act that say a charge can be made for these purposes.

“If the [council] is right, they would be entitled to say, ‘We’ve got a gap in our budget, we will turn the whole borough into a CPZ.’

“It would give them an extraordinary monopoly power from a captive group.”

James Goudie, QC, representing the council, said the case from Mr Attfield was driven simply by his “dissatisfaction with the fact that it now costs him more to park his car outside his house”.

He said the council was well within its rights under the 1984 Act to hike parking charges to enhance its highways budget.

Judge Mrs Justice Lang adjourned the case to consider her decision.

Campaign group Barnet CPZ Action insist the ruling will have far-reaching consequences for residents living in CPZs across the country.

Barnet CPZ Action said on its website: “The case centres on the lawfulness of a council raising parking charges for a minority of residents with the express intention of subsidising transport services across the borough.

“Barnet is unique amongst councils in arguing that this is lawful.”

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