2024-03-09

Except for access

Drivers should be aware what road signs mean. And so they need to be clear and unambiguous.

But some are a tad more challenging than others, and this is one example.

The "no motor vehicles" part, is easy. The issue is the "except for access". The signage site from which I nicked this image says "this sign grants permission for vehicles to pass but only for reasons of accessing premises or land adjacent to the road." Our version has Welsh as well :-)

That is not a bad description.

But it seems not quite 100% clear in some cases. It seems (and if someone can confirm this is correct, or not, do comment), that these signs relate to an order that the council may have made. That order may have subtly different wording. The problem is that the motorists seeing the sign is in no position to find the order (which may be on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "Beware of the Leopard" in the basement of the council offices). So hopefully motorists can rely on something simple like "for reasons of accessing premises or land adjacent to the road."

The only reason this came up is because I live on a corner of two roads, a main road, and a side road. The side road (well, three connected roads/closes from it) are subject to such an order. And it seems, before we purchased the property, this all kicked off with local residents of these side roads, understandably, pissed off over people parking in their (!) road just to visit the station - because the station car park is too small and costs money. I do understand, really. What we need is better station parking at a reasonable price, or free. That would solve it.

But, for some reason that I do not know (I was not here), even though including the next three properties with an address on the main road, like mine, they did not include what is now my property in any of the discussions, or "mailing list". And being not on the mailing list means now I am "talking out of my arse", oddly enough. I have met some of these people, and face to face they seem nice enough, and I have done my bit for the local area and the road (repointing a wall, and refurbishing a sign). I want to be a part of the community. But those that know me know that I try to do thins "right".

So what is the issue?

Well, I investigated this some years ago, largely because the side road has a load of "resident permit parking only" signs (cheap plastic, stuck to lamp posts, in English only, big clue). They seemed suspect at least. I found there is no way to apply for a permit! Indeed, when some of my visitors parked on the side road they got harassed and stickers on their cars, which itself may be an offence.

The person from the council, discussing (what was then a temporary order) was quite confrontational. He was adamant that "access" to my property (on the corner) somehow did not count, as I needed a drive on the side road(s) covered by the order. Well, some of the properties "on the road" don't have driveways, so clearly that makes no sense and even the legislation revers to pedestrian access. The fact we also have access from another road also makes no sense, but he tried that (several other properties have various levels of access from other roads as well). But he was pretty adamant, and I go nowhere (apart from them moving the signs maybe 30cm or so, in order not to actually be on my property).

To be clear, we have a nice drive space (three cars), and rarely will a visitor not be able avail themselves of that, but if not, then parking in the side road makes sense, just like anyone else in the area - these are not people parking to use the station, after all. Parking on the main road, a major A road, is not a good idea.

It came up again recently following a facebook post, which wound me up enough to email the council at 2am, but I got someone way more sane, well, mostly.

The "order" is not too bad now. It has been finally made a permanent order. "No person shall cause any motor vehicle to proceed in any of the lengths of road shown coloured blue on Drawing Number 1823 attached to this order except for access to properties situated along those lengths of road.", which leads to the question of "situated along" - a wording that is not quite the same as "adjacent". Adjacent definitely covers my property, as I have a long wall on a border on the side road, but what is "situated along"?

The council stated it is a contravention if "a motorist accesses these roads with the intention of accessing a property or business without a direct vehicular or pedestrian access point from.." so that sort of means they consider "situated along" as "having a direct vehicular or pedestrian access point from". Is that the actual legal meaning? I have no clue.

Actually, that is really odd, they have to have the intention to access a property or business at all, and one not on the road. Surely they can have intention to access a property on the road and one not on the road? That wording is way more restrictive than the actual wording of the order. I think it is therefore wrong.

Should it be this hard?

My concern here is that it should not be so complicated! How the hell is a driver meant to know the exact wording of the order, know it says "situated along", know that accessing a property not on the road (as well as on the road) is prohibited, and what "situated along" means exactly. No, clearly that is insane!

Do I qualify?

Well, thankfully, even though my property is absolutely "adjacent" to the road, and has a nice long wall on the road in question, it has maybe 1.5m of non-wall which is clearly pedestrian access from the road in question, with a pedestrian dropped kerb even. So I am pretty sure that is the case.

This is a slight problem as I am not "in the club", and have no "permits" (more below). So my visitors may quite legally enter the side road, and park, to visit me, without showing a permit. Why they chose to exclude my property from the discussions is unknown to me.

Crossing the line.

One slight caveat on the email from the council was "The point at which the order begins is where the signs are installed". Well, this is 100% incorrect, but I wonder if he said this to try and exclude me. The signs are the end of my wall, and my "pedestrian access" is before the signs. To park and access my property on foot means walking back passed the signs.

I say it is 100% wrong, with confidence, as the order states the names of the roads, and even has a plan with "blue" marking the roads. It shows the order starts at the main road. It even shows the signs position. So my property absolutely has pedestrian access from the area covered by the order, if that is what "situated along" actually means, and not just "adjacent" to. Even if the order started at the sign, I would be properly "situated along" the named road by the definition given, but clearly the order "starts" several metres before at the edge of the main road.

Why is this all stupid?

This is all silly, and the reason is that the clear stated intention is to restrict parking. The order says that is why it is made. It is what the locals want. It make sense. But this is not a parking restriction!

One issue is that the legislation allowing the council to even make a "no motor vehicles" order lists why they can do that, and parking restriction is not one. I raised this with the previous (unhelpful) contact and the best he could do was "maintain the character of the area". I pointed out the character of the area was "lots of cars parked with people using the station" and he was "improving" (i.e. not "maintaining") the character. The response seems to be the order saying: "If any person wishes to question the validity of the Order or any of its provisions on the ground that it or they are not within the powers conferred by the Act, or that any requirement of the Act or of any instrument made under the Act has not been complied with, that person may, within six weeks from the effect of the order 2a June 2023, apply for that purpose to the High Court." which seems odd, as I would expect if the order is invalid, it is invalid without time limit, and someone could challenge it as invalid in defence of a penalty charge / conviction for the driving offence. I may be wrong.

Surely the answer would be to actually make a proper parking restriction?!

Even if the order is valid, then what?

If the order is valid, then what? Well, it seems to be a moving traffic offence enforced by the police, so that seems to me to mean the police have to see (or maybe CCTV) a vehicle crossing the signs, and then what? Follow the driver and all passengers to see if any of them access a property? The rules allow for "intend" to access a property so someone could aim to visit someone, park, call, and find the are out, and leave, and be legal. Someone could visit and park on the basis that it is close to a property they will visit when the return from going to Newport on the train - again intention to access a property "situated along" the road even if police officer follows them to the station. And then what is access, well, anyone actually intending to circumvent these rules just needs a few Chinese menus, and record themselves dropping one in a letter box on each visit as they walk to the station. They have "accessed" a property in the area covered by the order in doing so, and having done so there is no parking restriction to stop them parking for as long as they like.

So, in essence, enforcing this is almost impossible. My understanding is that these orders are usually for "rat runs" when someone drives in one end of a road and out of the other end - which is easy to enforce. Trying to enforce this use "as a parking restriction" has to be almost impossible.

So the best they can do is infer someone parked may have not planned to visit someone, because they have no permit. If all of the residents ensure all visitors show a permit, then maybe that can be inferred (apart from the Chinese menu trick). Apparently the whole permit scheme has been agreed with residents (not me) and council and mayor and police, so facebook says. But we have not been included, so our visitors will have no permit, so just as well no permit scheme exists legally.

But it gets worse, there is a small single track road leading in to the same area that has no signs, so even if someone was parked, and did not show a permit, and just parked to go to the station, they just have to say they came in that way, no passing signs and so no moving traffic offence.

The fix?

Scrap this stupidity, which is questionably legal anyway, and leaves so many loopholes, and actually do a proper parking restriction, or better still have free and available parking for the station so nobody needs to park in these side roads!

If it was actually permit parking, we would apply for a couple of permits just in case.

I want to be part of the community here, and any help I can offer in making this right and workable, I am happy to offer. I do have a property "on" the road in question. But telling me I am "talking out of my arse" on facebook is not the way to progress matters, is it?

We'll see how it goes.

Or this :-)

4 comments:

  1. Council workmen repairing a pothole would not be accessing any property. Make sure they get a ticket for that contravention.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The order has a couple of exceptions, emergency vehicles for one. I’d have to check but I bet road works is covered.

      Delete
  2. I've had a similar problem with the council not knowing legal terminology. I bought a property with planning for an outbuilding stating 'no business activities', which is so ambiguous and broadly defined it means I'm not allowed to use it for working from home - somewhat difficult in a post-COVID world. The council should be stating 'not for business purposes' which is a legal definition it can't be used for business premises, requiring change-of-use planning permission and business rates.

    ReplyDelete
  3. In 'So what is the issue?' you quote the council thus:

    'The council stated it is a contravention if "a motorist accesses these roads with the intention of accessing a property or business without a direct vehicular or pedestrian access point from.."'

    My reading of that suggests that if they intend to access a property or business *outside* the area then they can't park there.

    So if they're a resident and they arrive home and go into their house, then they can't subsequently leave the area to, for example, go to the shops for a pint of milk, without moving their car (even if they park on their own driveway)?

    ...but I guess that depends on whether they "intended" to leave the area at the exact time they arrived in their car.






    ReplyDelete

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