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Highland Council bid to overturn parking fiasco ruling ‘wholly without merit’

By Scott Maclennan

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Restricted zone sign at the north end of Church Street, a hearing said they should contain the word ‘parking’ to restrict ‘parking.’ Picture: James Mackenzie
Restricted zone sign at the north end of Church Street, a hearing said they should contain the word ‘parking’ to restrict ‘parking.’ Picture: James Mackenzie

A TRIBUNAL has criticised Highland Council for its “failure to properly prepare the evidence” for a hearing over the local authority’s parking fiasco that revealed Inverness city centre signs may be invalid – along with the fines issued in connection with them.

The First Tier Tribunal of Scotland told the council that its bid to review a judgement had been rejected as “wholly without merit.”

We revealed that Councillor Andrew Jarvie had won an appeal against a parking ticket he got on Church Street when an adjudicator found signs should have said it was a “restricted parking zone” but officials left out the word “parking.”

The council sought a review of the decision claiming it had “special authorisation” for the signage, which it submitted with the call for a review, claiming “the adjudicator’s comments and decision are factually incorrect and flawed.”

It added that “more than sufficient evidence has been supplied” and that “this appeal should be reviewed in the interests of justice.”

Gary McIlravey, the legal member of the First Tier Tribunal rejected the council’s argument as “wholly without merit” adding that the interests of justice “work in favour of both parties.”

His assessment was brutally frank and rested in large part on the fact the council chose not to attend the hearing, did not provide the special authorisation until the appeal, which the adjudicator did not see.

He said: “The adjudicator can only make a decision based on the evidence available on the day of the hearing. At that time, no evidence of the special authorisation had been lodged.

“I note that such evidence was available at the time of the hearing and could have been lodged to justify the council position. The council chose not to do so.

“The adjudicator therefore had regard to all available information and took steps to check the terms of the regulations in some detail, reaching a valid and reasoned conclusion based on the evidence available to her at the time.

“Even though the authorisation was not lodged, the council chose not to be present at the hearing when the matter could have been addressed by any council representative and an appropriate motion, for instance for an adjournment to produce further evidence, could have been made.

“The appellant himself can only make decisions about whether to park at a particular locus based on the information available to him at the time. He has done so.

“The council seek a review based on the interests of justice. These interests work in favour of both parties. Notwithstanding this issue is raised for this locus for the first time, apparently, I see no reason why the appellant should be prejudiced due to the council’s failure to properly prepare the evidence for the original hearing.”

Caithness Councillor Andrew Jarvie was parked on Church Street in Inverness when he received a parking ticket.
Caithness Councillor Andrew Jarvie was parked on Church Street in Inverness when he received a parking ticket.

Cllr Jarvie said: “In the last week, this whole affair has highlighted everything that is wrong with this council – especially its complete communications failure to work with both myself and the press.

“Instead of accepting there was an issue and working to resolve it, the council chose to double down on the error, being humiliated again. A true own goal.

“It submitted an appeal against my appeal. The evidence it included was significant, revealing this whole issue was potentially created by a fault of the Scottish Government.

“Despite me taking this matter to the council before the story was printed, to helpfully point out an error against them that they missed, I was dismissed at first.

“To find out the full facts and work collaboratively with others before a story goes to press is what I thought communications offices were meant to do.

“But it points to the wider issues across the whole council, teams still seem to work in their own silos and critical information only comes out when it’s too late.

“When will this council ever learn that its brick wall approach to issues is only causing the council to damage itself, whilst it blames everyone else for them looking silly?"

Highland Council refuted the findings of the tribunal and insisted that “the signage is valid” but that there would be no further appeal – in the meantime it would continue issuing parking tickets for Church Street.

A spokesperson said: “The council received ‘special authorisation’ on July 3, 2009 from Scottish Ministers for all of the signage in place relating to the Inverness Restricted Parking Zone including the restrictions on Church Street.

“The restrictions have been and continue to be enforceable. Enforcement of all waiting and loading restrictions within the city centre will continue as normal.”

They added: “We do not comment on member comment to the media.”

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