Council responds to calls to refund every motorist who drove in 'cash cow' 24/7 bus lane in Northampton

The council made £800,000 in bus lane fines in a 10-month period last year
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West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) has responded to calls for the £800,000 it made through a controversial bus lane scheme to be refunded to thousands of motorists.

Earlier this month, Independent Councillor Julie Davenport, of the Far Cotton ward, called on the council to refund every single motorist who was fined for driving in the now defunct 24/7 bus lane in St James' Road opposite Westbridge Garage.

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The 24/7 bus lane, which was introduced in August 2020, has now been scrapped and the camera, introduced in February last year, has been switched off.

The bus lane and camera in St James' RoadThe bus lane and camera in St James' Road
The bus lane and camera in St James' Road

The main contention with the bus lane was the camera's location situated opposite Westbridge Garage, which is where motorists would use the bus lane to undertake vehicles turning right into the petrol station.

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"The council has said the decision was wrong and has now been change, but it keeps on taking people's money. If you knew it was wrong, the money should go back to residents."

However, Councillor Phil Larratt, from WNC and responsible for transport, said it was 'enforcing what it had inherited from the former Northamptonshire County Council'.

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Cllr Larratt said: “Enforcement was introduced by our predecessor, Northamptonshire County Council, which was entirely within its remit.

“West Northamptonshire Council did not impose any penalty charges in error, but simply enforced the bus lane policy that it inherited.

"Therefore the levying and collection of the fines prior to the formal decision to cease enforcement was legitimate and we would not offer any refunds."

The scheme was finally scrapped in December by WNC after mounting pressure from the public.

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The bus lane time's reverted to its previous hours between 7am and 9.30am everyday.

Cllr Larratt added: “Since WNC came into being [in April last year], we have listened to people’s specific concerns regarding the enforcement camera at Westbridge and have taken the conscious decision to change our enforcement activity in this area.

"This included a comprehensive consultation exercise which led to the proposal to Cabinet to cease enforcement and revert the hours of operation of the bus lane to morning peak hours only. "