Council refuses to release amount issued claiming public interest exemption
An ANPR camera installed in Broughton Road. Picture: Owen Sheppard
Hammersmith and Fulham Council should reveal the number of fines issued to motorists under its controversial SW6 Traffic Reduction Scheme, a campaigner has said.
The scheme, where non-resident motorists are fined after being captured on cameras if their vehicles pass through certain residential streets in Sands End, has been in operation since mid-July.
It has proved unpopular with many vehicle owners who say the scheme has contributed to a rise in congestion in Wandsworth Bridge Road, although maintenance works on Wandsworth Bridge and the closure of Hammersmith Bridge have also made matters worse.
Now there are calls for the council to be more transparent about how many people have been issued with fines worth £40, rising to £80 for late payment.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service submitted a Freedom of Information request to the council asking how many fines were issued in the first month that the scheme was fully operational, from mid-August. The council accepted there was “public interest” in releasing the data, and said it would do so in “the new year, once the scheme has fully bedded down”.
James Spokoini of the SW6 Traffic Campaign said he too had an FOI request about the fines rejected by the council.
Mr Spokoini said, “In meetings they [council officers] have said they can’t release the information because it wouldn’t be reflective of the final number of fines, the final outcome, because some are being appealed.
“But we also should know how many times people have crossed cameras.
“They would be better off being more transparent. If you’re going to release it later, supposedly, just release it now.
“They probably think it paints a bad picture. The reality is they have rescinded a lot of tickets, some on compassionate grounds, or because they had an inclination that people didn’t have the greatest awareness of the scheme.”
Wandsworth Bridge Road traffic
Minicab drivers are among those who have had fines withdrawn and now have clearance to drive throughout Sands End without getting fined.
Omar Sayed, owner of Hayber Cars and Chelsea and Fulham Cars, said his drivers had until recently felt discouraged from picking up customers in Sands End because of the scheme.
The council has confirmed that it is now in talks with Uber to allow them full access to restricted roads.
Mr Spokoini also spoke of a handyman from the World’s End Estate in Chelsea, who had 13 fines rescinded from going on jobs in Sands End.
But he doesn’t believe the council wanted the scheme to be a “money spinner”, and that ultimately it wants motorists to be “compliant”.
Meanwhile, the newly-created Wandsworth Bridge Road Association said it believes the scheme is proving unpopular with businesses and residents.
“We have an ongoing survey that we haven’t published the data from yet. We have had 411 responses,” said Gary Fannin, who founded the association.
“So far about 85 per cent of respondents have said they believe the scheme has had a ‘negative effect’ on traffic in Wandsworth Bridge Road.”
Councillor Wesley Harcourt, cabinet member for the environment, said the aim of the scheme is to “enhance the quality of life in the area”.
“It is not about making money, and all income from fines will be ploughed back into enhancing the local environment,” he said.
“We are committed to releasing figures detailing the number of fines issued to non-residents under the scheme. Under the rules regulating experimental traffic orders, these figures should be released within 18 months. In the interests of transparency, and as part of our ongoing work with residents to develop the scheme, we intend to do that much earlier, in the new year, once the scheme has fully bedded down.
“All residents of Hammersmith and Fulham who have a parking permit or a car registered to their home are free to drive through the entire restricted area. It is also important to stress that all areas are accessible to non-residents without going through the camera control points. However, if visitors or delivery drivers intend to drive, or have driven, through the control zone, residents should obtain on-the-day permits for them via the RingGo app to avoid the issuing of penalty notices.”
For more information about the SW6 traffic scheme, visit the council’s website.
Owen Sheppard - Local Democracy Reporter
November 11, 2020