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Camden Council cancels 192 driving tickets worth £25,000 over wrong-way-round sign fiasco

PUBLISHED: 08:00 03 December 2015

Michael Lazarus has won 192 motorists refunds after they were wrongly fined for driving in the Highgate Road bus lane by Camden Council - but now he is lobbying for even more people to get their money back or have tickets cancelled. Picture: Polly Hancock

Michael Lazarus has won 192 motorists refunds after they were wrongly fined for driving in the Highgate Road bus lane by Camden Council - but now he is lobbying for even more people to get their money back or have tickets cancelled. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

Camden Council was forced to cancel nearly 200 drivers' fines worth more than £25,000 because a road sign faced the wrong way round - and could soon be shelling out even more if one man gets his way.

The Highgate Road sign facing the wrong way road, away from the road, in August 2014The Highgate Road sign facing the wrong way road, away from the road, in August 2014

A restriction bans drivers from using a section of a bus lane in Highgate Road between 4pm and 7pm every day.

But for nearly a year, motorists using the lane had no idea they were breaking the rules because the sign informing them about the ban was on backwards – making it impossible for passing drivers to see it.

Thanks to one motorist’s tireless campaign, the council had to refund or cancel the tickets of 192 drivers – potentially costing them £25,920. But retired businessman Michael Lazarus is still on a mission to get even more people wrongly fined their money back.

The 81-year-old said: “I’m hugely irritated by the way the council has approached this. They have run me around but I am determined. 
They have now succumbed but they haven’t succumbed enough.”

Mr Lazarus has been at loggerheads with the council for nearly 18 months after he was caught out by the wrong-facing sign south of Chetwynd Road in Kentish Town back in August 2014.

With the council initially refusing to cancel the penalty charge notice (PCN), it took Mr Lazarus seven months to get officers to finally admit that the sign was not visible to drivers, in a letter seen by the Ham&High.

But the win over Camden Parking Services was not enough for Mr Lazarus, who lives in south Hertfordshire but drives regularly into Camden. He continued to lobby for all motorists who were wrongly fined to be refunded from the date he was first penalised in August 2014 at the very least.

Finally in August this year, the council agreed to refund or cancel the tickets of 192 motorists between January 27 – the date the council claims it as made aware of the backwards sign – and June 22 – the date it claims that it knew that the sign needed to be fixed.

But Mr Lazarus is now calling for the council to go further and refund all those caught out before January – potentially affecting hundreds more people and costing tens of thousands of pounds.

He also claims that even when the sign was fixed in June, tree branches hid it from sight until September 8 – potentially leading to even more refunds for motorists.

Mr Lazarus said: “It has become a tyranny. People have been issued with penalty notices when the council knows the sign could not be read. Why do we have to fight with them? Why don’t they just give back all the money?”

In a statement, cabinet member for sustainability and environment Cllr Meric Apak said the sign was facing the right way round before January and between June and September, and will enforce any PCNs issued during these periods.

A spokesman added that when Mr Lazarus received a ticket, the sign was in place and was clear to motorists – contradicting photographic evidence and the letter to Mr Lazarus from the council’s own officers.

“The sign in the photograph, which is sometimes affected by foliage, is not used for enforcement purposes and therefore has no bearing on any PCN cancellations,” he said.

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