Disabled woman, 48, left in 'panic' after Northampton council threatens her with legal action over bus lane fine

"The amount of money the council has made on that stretch of road is obscene"

Monday, 17th May 2021, 5:09 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 4:00 pm

A 74-year-old Northampton woman and her disabled daughter are the latest motorists to step forward and claim that the council has wrongfully threatened legal action after being caught in a bus lane.

Chris Carr and her daughter Vanessa, 48, drove in the St James bus lane on March 22 and were caught by the controversial camera opposite Westbridge garage.

They only went that way because of the 'nightmare' traffic jams caused by the Spencer Bridge roadworks at the time. The pair admit they were in the wrong and were happy to pay a fine.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The bus lane camera (top right) opposite Westbridge garage

However, the letter telling them of the initial fine of £60 and giving the option to reduce it to £30 if paid within 14 days was not delivered to Vanessa's home in Duston.

A month later, Vanessa received a second letter demanding £90 and threatening her with legal action because she did not pay the first fine.

This is the third case the Chron has reported on so far - with more to come - where drivers who were issued a council fine on March 25 did not receive a first letter.

The council admitted earlier this month that there may have been problems with Royal Mail that day and allowed one man to pay the initial £30. But for everyone else who is in the same position, the council have asked for motorists to make contact with them. Many people have said the onus should be on the council to offer the repayments rather than waiting to be contacted.

Chris and Vanessa said: "We were in shock when we received the second letter.

"Vanessa could not prove she did not receive the letter any more than the council could prove she did.

"Okay, she drove in the lane but she didn't know she did and then the second letter came and we thought 'where is this first letter?'.

"It was panic stations. Do you pay or get threatened with legal action? We couldn't have coped with legal action so we paid."

Chris and Vanessa paid using a pre-paid envelope so that they would receive a receipt.

When they received a receipt from the council, it said they had paid their fine for driving in Wellingborough's Market Street bus lane. But the bus lane they drove in was in St James.

The mother and daughter said: "We have not been over to Wellingborough in five years.

"I rang the council and pointed this out, they couldn't provide any explanation as to why it said Wellingborough.

"To send the letter saying Market Street, Wellingborough, when it was St James just proves what the council's system is like - careless."

And now they want £60 of the £90 fine back and for the council to give everyone caught up in this issue a chance to pay the initial £30.

Addressing the council directly, the pair said: "Can we please have our £60 back?

"If the the council knew there was a problem with the post then they should have contacted everyone from March 25 saying there is a problem. Some has made a mistake here."

The mother and daughter added: "The amount of money the council has made on that stretch of road is obscene. It's not good."

The council has issued fines worth a minimum of £290,000 from the bus lane camera in St James' Road after it went live in February this year.

Fiona Unett, from West Northamptonshire Council, said: “The council considers appeals from motorists for penalty charge notices using an online system which enables all appeals to be audited.

"If you think that you should not have received a penalty charge notice, or there are special reasons why you believe it should be cancelled, you can appeal. There are contact details on the notice itself, or this can be done via our website."

Anyone who believes they have grounds for an appeal can visit https://www.northamptonshire.gov.uk/councilservices/northamptonshire-highways/parking/Pages/bus-lane-enforcement.aspx and follow the instructions.