Call for refunds over £550,000 Sheffield bus gate after fines appeal victory

A controversial Sheffield bus gate which has generated nearly £550,000 in fines has been altered after one motorist won a major victory.

Saturday, 4th September 2021, 7:28 am
Steve Wilkinson beside the bus gate on Glossop Road, in Sheffield city centre, before the recent changes were made

Steve Wilkinson says all drivers should be entitled to refunds after his wife Katherine Wilkinson won her appeal against a series of fines issued by Sheffield Council for going through the bus gate on Glossop Road in the city centre.

Caroline Sheppard, chief adjudicator for the Traffic Penalty Tribunal, ruled in Ms Wilkinson’s favour, overturning eight fines totalling £480.

In her ruling, issued in March this year, she stated: “I find that the PCN does not adequately describe the location of the bus gate restriction that the council intended.

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This is why a new bus gate in Sheffield is catching thousands of motorists

“In the circumstances it is in the interests of justice to revoke the previous decision in this case and replace it with my decision to allow the appeal on the grounds that the contravention alleged on the PCN did not occur. Like the others, this PCN must be cancelled.”

Sheffield Council says it has since amended the wording on fines and improved the signs around the bus gate.

Mr Wilkinson claims this means that all fines issued before the changes were made are invalid, though the council disputes this and says any appeals have to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Since the bus gate was moved to its present location in 2017, Sheffield Council said fines totalling £546,239.50 have been issued.

Ms Sheppard found that the fines in question were invalid because the penalty charge notice failed to state the date on which it was posted and did not accurately describe the address of the gate, plus the signage in place did not comply with the TRO (Traffic Regulation Order).

Mr Wilkinson says he previously had a fine which was issued in 2017 overturned on similar grounds yet the council failed to act then despite knowing the system in place was indequate.

He said: “Sheffield Council changed these signs in July this year. I had told the council in 2017 about all of the defects, at my first appeal with the Deputy Chief Adjudicator, yet it ignored me back then.

“In a nutshell, the scheme was a complete mess from inception in 2010 and this ruling means the council should refund all those motorists who have been wrongly fined. What the council has done is called, in polite society, unust enrichment.”

Mr Wilkinson used to run Spa 1877 just off Glossop Road and when he closed the business in September 2019 he claimed the bus gate had cost him hundreds of thousands of pounds in lost revenue.

A council spokesperson said: “We’ve taken this opportunity to amend the phrasing of the Penalty Charge Notices and to improve the signs around the bus gate. We would encourage motorists to follow the restrictions on bus lane and bus gates which are there to improve the reliability and punctuality of Sheffield’s public transport system.

“The council respects the decisions made by the Traffic Penalty Tribunal which assesses appeals on an individual basis. We have therefore cancelled Mrs Wilkinson’s Penalty Charge Notice.

“Whether a motorist is entitled to a refund or not depends on the individual circumstances of each case. Measures such as bus gate restrictions are in place to support Sheffield’s public transport system and it’s important that drivers adhere to these restrictions.”

The bus gate was introduced to prevent buses and trams getting stuck in rush hour traffic, and the restriction only operates during peak hours, but critics say it is confusing and has put drivers off using the road at any time.

Peter Sephton, chairman of the Glossop Road Baths Residents' Association, said he too had had a bus gate fine cancelled after sending a tranche of evidence to the tribunal explaining why, in his view, local access should not be penalised since it doesn’t interfere with public transport.

He has written to the council’s chief executive, Kate Josephs, saying: “Why has the reviled Glossop Road Bus-gate not been changed to permit local access to the no-man’s land between the two bus-gates?

“175 metres of prime city centre highway has been blighted; businesses continue to fail, many jobs have been lost and the fines keep on coming for access that goes nowhere near the public transport pinch-point of the ring road. It’s an example of classic local authority highway design absurdity. A perfect plot for Yes Minister!”

Mr Sephton is asking for a review of the system and has put forward five alternatives which he says would be more effective.