By Ifé Fatunase
Many of us have so much going on in our lives these days, it is no wonder that we often choose the easier, quieter option of doing nothing.
Prices at the fuel pumps rocket, we shrug our shoulders and fill up our cars. Someone lights a cigarette on the upper deck of a bus, we simply move downstairs. We pay out more for lunch at the work canteen, but say nothing about the smaller potions we receive.
If that’s what Barnet Council hoped its residents would do when it announced plans to increase Control Parking Zone (CPZ) fees, then it was very much mistaken.
A group of residents, called Barnet CPZ Action, plan to take legal action against the council to stop the increases which come into force on March 21.
Barnet Council want to raise resident parking permits in CPZs from £40 to £100 a year. However, what’s incensed the Barnet residents even more, is the increase of the one day visitors permit from £1 to £4.
Jeanne Wray, a 79-year-old, who lives in one of the areas affected, is furious. She said: “I quite often have friends round during the day, but they are not going to be able to afford to come if the visitor vouchers increase from £1 to £4.”
When she raised the issue at a council meeting last month, she was told that she would simply have to have her friends over in the evening. She says that’s impractical as her friends are also pensioners and cannot travel in the dark.
Last week, on March 11, Barnet CPZ Action started the legal proceedings, serving the council with formal notice of the court challenge. David Attfield, a lawyer leading the group said: “We have tried all other avenues and have been left with no alternative other than to legally challenge the new charges in the High Court. We have sought independent advice from a barrister and believe we have a good case to apply for Judicial Review.”
Barnet council now has over a week to consider its position.
The basis for Barnet CPZ Action’s legal challenge is the issue of whether any council can put up parking charges solely for the purpose of increasing its revenue.
The group points to a report by the RAC which states: “It is illegal (however) for local authorities to set charges in order to provide a source of revenue for other activities, even if the money raised is used to fund transport provision. The level of charges must be based solely on the need to manage parking.
“Any local authority that sets its parking charges or penalties in order to raise funds is acting ultra vires (i.e. illegally) and may be challenged in the Courts.”
The action group believes it can win because Barnet Council’s financial plans for next year, shows it wants to reduce its Highways Maintenance budget by £1.5 million but expects to raise £1.42 million from the CPZ charges increase to spend on roads.
The members of Barnet CPZ Action say they are fired up and confident of winning this ‘David versus Goliath’ battle, but they do face an obstacle. They believe they need to raise £15,000 to stand a good chance of taking the case all the way to trial.
A meeting last week of over 70 residents raised £3,000 in donations in a single evening. Barnet CPZ Action is now appealing to all residents in the borough to help them reach their target, and say most of the donations will be returned to donors if the case is successful.
This Saturday, March 19, Barnet CPZ Action will have a stall in East Finchley outside Budgens on the High Street from 10am to 2pm to talk to Barnet residents and answer questions.
If you want support the legal action by making a donation, get involved or just to find out more information about Barnet CPZ Action, you can visit their website on www.barnetcpz.blogspot.com , email email@example.com or follow them on Twitter @barnetcpzaction
RAC report can be viewed at http://www.racfoundation.org/research/mobility/on-street-parking