Driver wins tribunal appeal against fine from notorious £400k Nottingham ‘bus gate’

The Shakespeare Street bus gate, near Nottingham Trent University's city campus.

A tribunal has ruled in favour of a driver who complained a notorious Nottingham ‘bus gate’ is catching hundreds of motorists because it does not have clear enough signs.

The camera-monitored bus-only zone on Shakespeare Street, brought in to protect pedestrians, led to almost £0.5 million in fines in the first nine months of 2016.

Now one of the drivers caught has taken Nottingham City Council to a tribunal, saying its signs aren’t clear enough – and won.

An adjudicator who chaired the hearing also noted no regular bus services even pass through the route, saying: “It could be suggested that [the bus gate] has been created merely so the council can enforce breaches under bus lane regulations and need not rely on the police to enforce breaches of the pedestrian zone restriction.”

Nottingham City Council says it is appealing the decision by taking it to a judicial review.

Dr Stephen Sutcliffe instigated the tribunal when the council rejected his appeal against the fine issued to him after driving through the street to a wedding last April.

He says he did not see signs saying the route is only for pedestrians and was slapped with a £60 fine received through the post four days later.

The street’s camera system led to the most driving fines in Nottingham in 2016.

It triggered fines totalling £460,658.43p between January and September.

The westbound approach to the Shakespeare Street bus gate, just off Goldsmith Street.
The westbound approach to the Shakespeare Street bus gate, just off Goldsmith Street.

Contraventions tend to be £60, reduced to £30 if paid within two weeks.

But Dr Sutcliffe, from Liverpool, argued there was inadequate signage informing road users of the restrictions on the road, the route was not used by regular bus services and the street was merely a pedestrian zone and not a ‘bus gate’ – and consequently that the use of CCTV cameras on the road was unlawful.

There are, however, signs at the other end of the street indicating the restrictions and the presence of a camera.

The tribunal ruled that no regular bus services use the bus gate, and that the road is only used by student buses transporting Nottingham Trent University students from halls of residence to the city campus.

Evidence, provided by Nottingham City Council, showing an empty Unite Students bus travelling through the Shakespeare Street bus gate.

Dr Sutcliffe’s fine was rescinded after adjudicator, Jill Yates, ruled the signage on the westbound approach to the bus gate was “inadequate” and advised the council to “look at the proportionality of having a bus lane with such limited use”.

Mr Sutcliffe said he felt “aggrieved” by his and the number of other contraventions handed out to people for encroaching the “badly-signed” restriction.

“What is surprising is the number of contraventions which are handed out and the lack of people who are appealing them,” he said.

“I want to raise the profile as much as possible so that other people don’t fall victim in the same way.

“I’m surprised by the lack of people aware that they can appeal it, and that they’ve got a chance of winning the appeal.”

Around £500,000 has been accrued from Shakespeare Street bus gate.
Around £500,000 was accrued from Shakespeare Street bus gate between January and September, 2016.

He added: “I would suggest that what the council needs to do is paint a big ‘bus lane’ sign on the carriageway.”

Nottingham City Council says the bus gate was introduced to meet Nottingham Trent University’s desire to improve the pedestrian safety of its students.

A City Council spokesman said: “We are confident that the signage complies fully with Department for Transport guidelines and the bus gate remains fully enforceable.

“This review has no effect on any fines already issued, or which are due to be issued, and so vehicles must still comply with the restrictions.”

Electronic signage has been installed to warn drivers of encroaching the Shakespeare Street bus gate.
Electronic signage has been installed to warn drivers of encroaching the Shakespeare Street bus gate.

An electronic sign warning drivers of the bus gate, installed by the council in December, remains in place. The authority says this is a temporary measure.