Troll Bridge Newbury

A government dispensation from the Department for Transport gave West Berkshire Council (WBC) permission to configure and administrate (under civil law) a bus-lane scheme across the Kennet and Avon Canal bridge at Newbury Berks. WBC enacted the scheme via a series of crass errors that led to over 10,000 motorists being entrapped and ‘charged’.

It transpires that the Transport Regulation Order for the scheme (TRO) was drafted in such a convoluted (quasi legalese) way as to negate itself, thereby failing to validate the charges levied by WBC on motorists falsely deemed in breach. When I challenged WBC in these terms, the TRO disappeared from its place on the web. On enquiry, I have been deviously directed to the second draft of the TRO – unsigned, unsealed, i.e. not a legal document. I deduce WBC is aware that the TRO is void.

When entrapment took-off apace, WBC did too little too late, even though signage and its illumination was all shambolic. It took months to creep to quasi-propriety. DfT regulations are a gift to any rapacious Council; much more could have been done had WBC been benign stewards rather than ‘wheel-clampers’. I pointed out in early days, specifically, that nearby car-parks needed warning signs at exits – these (albeit ‘quaintly’ worded) have now, very belatedly, been erected.

Then there is the matter of designation of the bridge. Once WBC had managed to separate, in their corporate confusion, ‘Parkway’ (a shopping mall) from ‘Park Way’ (a road running from London Road towards the canal) which they did with pathetic difficulty (my PCN putting me on ‘Parkway Bridge’) they settled on ‘Park Way Bridge’ which appears on no map. Indeed, a 2015 WBC map shows quite clearly that Wharf Road runs North and South of the canal, with a nameless bridge embedded in its Northern stretch. Furthermore, ‘Park Way’ has its Southern extremity some distance to the North of the canal. No visitor to Newbury may adequately prepare for the ‘Troll Bridge Newbury’ Experience by map consultation – or even a rational guess!

In keeping with the DfT dispensation, WBC may fleece motorists under civil law. It works very nicely in their favour as the aggrieved ‘transgressor’ must have expensive recourse to civil courts while the Council can (and do) just ‘fold’ if faced with such intent. (To date, the charging travesty has not been tested in any court.) But WBC have overreached themselves in claiming (see Newbury weekly News – various dates) that they may keep any money received, on grounds that payment is proof of validity-of-charge. This is not only untrue but, by my enquiry, a CRIMINAL offence as the law has been falsely stated. I have twice asked WBC for the statute backing their assertion, receiving only flim-flam in response; a common experience.

The day will yet come when they are required to pay back all money wrongly accrued. That is when they will declare records have been shredded under data protection laws. Oh to be in England, now perversity’s here.

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