Wednesday, 8 February 2012

High Court reject legal challenge

In a bitter blow today, a High Court Judge rejected our application to overturn Barnet's CPZ charges.

The decision is as surprising as it is disappointing.  We had genuinely expected the Judge to find that we had raised a serious case that needed to be decided at a full trial.

The case in the event turned on a very narrow question:  whether a Council can set resident's parking charges to raise revenue for things that have nothing to do with resident's parking (paying for travel passes for the elderly and fixing potholes in the case of Barnet).

We relied on two High Court cases which we say make it clear that parking charges need to address a parking related need (the cost of running a CPZ and the need in some areas to dampen demand might be lawful reasons to increase charges).

This is what we firmly believe;
It is what David Attfield's solicitors firmly believe;
It is what David's QC firmly believes;
It is what the RAC Foundation firmly believes;
It is even what Westminster Council firmly believed when they proposed introducing night time parking charges: they argued that the charges were needed to dampen demand,  not to raise revenue to fix potholes.

We need to think carefully about our next steps.  Legally, there is merit in taking the question of whether CPZ residents should pay for travel passes and potholes to the Court of Appeal.  But we must assess what the cost of this would be and whether we have the necessary support.  We will keep you posted.

We leave you with some food for thought:  If Barnet and the Judge are correct that parking charges can always be used to pay for a Council's transport spending,  then there is scope for Barnet to double or even treble the current charges.  Barnet makes about £5 million profit a year from parking but spends around £15m on transport (mainly paying for bus passes).  How much more of the burden of paying for travel passes and potholes will Barnet try to offload onto CPZ residents?

3 comments:

  1. Is there ever any distinction made, in "fund-raising" terms, between residents' parking permits (OWNING a car, and living in a certain place), and parking fees (USING a car, and deciding to park in a particular place, which is rather more discretionary)?

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    1. Yes, the Judge in the first High Court to look at resident's parking (Cran v Camden Council in 1995) said that there was just such a distinction. He said, for example, that high pay and display parking charges may be justified in some areas but that councils shouldn't impose high charges for residents who in most cases have no real choice but to own a car. He also said that the statute which allows local authorities to charge for parking was not intended to be used to discourage car ownership.

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