Nearly one in three parking fine appeals succeed in Sheffield
Nearly one in three appeals against parking fines issued in Sheffield is successful, The Star has learned.
A whopping 3,953 fines issued to motorists across the city were last year overturned, out of 12,893 contested - a rate of 30 per cent.
The biggest reason for fines being cancelled is where a pay-and-display ticket had been bought but was not spotted by the traffic warden issuing the penalty charge notice (PCN). This accounted for 1,071 fines being overturned on appeal last year.
The second most common reason, accounting for 825 successful appeals last year, was where the liability for the fine was transferred - usually where it was a hire car and the company leasing the vehicle provided the customer's details.
Blue badges (286), RingGo cashless payment made (225), loading (106) and issues with the signs or lines in place (105) were among the other top reasons for successful appeals during 2016.
A Freedom of Information request by The Star also revealed the most common excuses given by drivers appealing against fines, many of which were doomed to failure from the start.
There were 41 drivers who tried to wangle their way out of paying by saying they were late for an appointment, 232 who claimed there had been nowhere to park, 85 who said they had left a note in the vehicle and five who simply said the charge was too expensive.
Councillor Mazher Iqbal, Sheffield Council's cabinet member for infrastructure and transport, said: "There are a number of reasons why correctly issued penalty charge notices can be reversed, although, as these figures show, three quarters of PCNS are upheld.
"Parking enforcement is designed to be a fair process and the parking policy reflects this."
Parking charges range from £50 for overstaying in a pay-and-display zone to £70 for parking on yellow lines or zig-zag road markings, with drivers who pay within a fortnight receiving a 50 per cent discount.
That means the successful appeals could amount to nearly £277,000 based on the highest possible charge.
Even taking into consideration fines for which the liability was transferred rather than being cancelled, that figure is still a hefty £219,000.
The Alliance of British Drivers, which lobbies for motorists' rights, said the number of successful appeals in the city suggested there was a problem.
"A high figure like this means there may be an issue with signage or the way parking's being enforced," said the group's treasurer Hugh Bladon.
"The fact a third of appeals are succeeding means there must be something wrong with the parking regime there.
"A lot of people get bullied into the business of pay now and you pay less, which we consider to be a form of blackmail. I would encourage anybody who thinks they have some cause for appeal to do so."
The proportion of parking fine appeals which are successful has fallen slightly in recent years, from 34 per cent in 2012 to 31 per cent last year.
The number of appeals has also fallen sharply over that period, from nearly 19,500 in 2012 to less than 12,900 last year.
Nearly 95,000 PCNs were issued by traffic wardens and bus lane cameras across the city during 2015/16, of which the council says 31 per cent were appealed.
The figures emerged as Sheffield Council launched a new interactive tool it claims will help drivers considering challenging a parking fine.
The online system, which was developed by Barbour Logic and launched on February 22, asks people whether they wish to pay the fine or appeal.
If they wish to contest it, they are asked to provide a reason and are then given information about the evidence required and the likelihood of that appeal being successful.
As well as simplifying the process for drivers with genuine grounds for appeal, the gadget will explain some of the invalid reasons for contesting fines, like driving through a bus gate while following satellite navigation guidance.
Coun Iqbal said: "We understand that receiving a penalty charge notice can be a stressful and difficult situation.
"We hope that this online process simplifies things. It makes it easier to pay and, if you feel the notice was unjust, gives guidance and information about the likelihood of staging a successful appeal, including what evidence should be supplied. This should create an easier process for customers to follow.
"As well as helping in successful appeals and in simplifying the appeals process, this system also stops people from wasting time on appeals that are unlikely to be successful.
"This new system aims to make the appeals process more open and transparent, and enables motorists to come to a decision on whether to appeal or not in a fully informed manner."
To use the new appeals tool, visit www.sheffield.gov.uk/roads/travel/driving/parking.html and click on 'Pay A Fine'.
Parking fine appeals in Sheffield by year
Year: appeals / successful / percentage of appeals succeeding
2016: 12,893 / 3,953 / 31%
2015: 15,296 / 4,611 / 30%
2014: 15,354 / 5,195 / 34%
2013: 16,478 / 5,672 / 34%
2012: 19,486 / 6,720 / 34%
Top reasons for successful appeals in 2016
Pay-and-display ticket: 1,071
Transfer liability: 825
Blue badge: 286
Signs and lines: 105
CEO (civil enforcement officer) error: 89
Ticket machine faulty/out of order: 84
Medical emergency: 71
Visitor's permit: 70
Vehicle breakdown: 52
* in 771 cases, the reason given was listed as 'general'
Top reasons given by drivers appealing fines in 2016
Signs or markings not seen/understood: 3,059
Pay-and-display ticket displayed: 2,365
Blue badge displayed: 807
Hire company claims vehicle on hire: 778
Instalment payments requested: 413
Had used cashless payment (RingGo): 392
PCN not received: 354
Ticket machine faulty/out of order: 291
Resident's permit displayed: 288
Medical emergency: 273
Ownership denied: 264
Visitor's permit displayed: 250
Nowhere to park: 232
CEO (civil enforcement officer) mistaken: 226
Vehicle was broken down: 221