Monday 20th November 2017,
North Yorks Enquirer

LCC: We Tried To Tell You

LCC: We Tried To Tell You

  • an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, up-dating readers on the dispute over the Huttoft Car Terrace in East Lincolnshire – yet another bye-law farce. They really do make it up as they go along.

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Background

Readers may recall a series of article, from August 2014 to March 2015 reporting on the curious conduct of the Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) Legal Department

Particularly relevant to this present piece is the second half of “Councils: The Law Is An Ass”, first published on 27th March 2015, outlining the sheer sloppiness of the supporting documentation underlying the bye-law prohibiting motor-homes from parking overnight (11:00pm – 7:00am) on Huttoft Car Terrace.

LCC’s position had been spelt out by Mr Steve WILLIS Assistant Director for Environment, Planning & Customer Services, who was so sure of his ground as to tell the media that:

  • “The legal process has already begun against a number of individuals caught breaching the byelaws by the police, and the council remains committed to seeing this legal action through to the end.”

Clearly, LCC was determined to pursue an untenable position, wasting who knows how much of the public purse in the process, by attempting prosecutions based on a terminally flawed bye-law.

LCC Chief Exec Tony McARDLE’s views on the matter also smacked of intransigence:

  • “I note the comments of the Executive Councillor responsible and of various Council Officers in respect of the Council’s position and the actions that have taken[sic] to protect the public interest. It seems to me that as a consequence of these, no reasonable person could be left in any doubt as to what is permitted at the site and of the consequences of any action taken in defiance of that.”

Well, it turns out that the only “reasonable person” who matters (i.e. the Judge) profoundly disagrees with the pompobulous Mr McARDLE.

The Case

LCC persisted with a prosecution against one Alex SPROTT. They even obtained a conviction through the Boston Magistrates Court. But Alex SPROTT appealed that conviction and was last week acquitted, as reported in the East Lindsay Target under the title “Driver’s victory over Lincolnshire council sees £830 in parking penalties overturned” (03/08/15), from which I take the liberty of reproducing a few lines here, for readers’ convenience, because they make for  such a satisfying reading experience:

  • Mr Sprott, 34, of Ascot Drive, Grantham, was originally convicted by Boston magistrates of two breaches of the bye-laws on May 11 and July 5. But he appealed the case at Lincoln Crown Court where he represented himself in front of a judge and two magistrates.
  • After a 90-minute hearing he was cleared of both offences and awarded £669 costs against the county council.
  • Mr Sprott said: “The council has wasted thousands of pounds of taxpayers money”
  • Mr Sprott told the court that a police officer who later measured the vehicle found it was only 1.84m high and so not in breach of the regulation. But at the appeal Matthew Davey, the authority’s environment and community projects officer, admitted the van was never measured and instead he relied on details supplied by the manufacturer.
  • Judge Rosemary Coe QC said: “We are satisfied that this first prosecution should never have been prosecuted.
  • After the case Matthew Davey, Lincolnshire County Council’s environment and community projects officer, said: “We are, of course, disappointed with the decision.However, we will continue to monitor the car parks over the summer and seek to continue to enforce the bye-laws.”

In short, a thoroughly well-deserved drubbing.

But the important lesson here is that once again we encounter the sheer arrogance of the nabobs in their utter inability to admit when they are wrong – as they so very often are.  That arrogance comes with a price.

I shall be lodging a Freedom of Information request to elicit how much of the public purse has been squandered on this ludicrous exercise in obduracy. (If memory serves, LCC was about £25K into the Huttoft idiocy when I FOIA’d them back in March).

The sad result is that the cost of it will come from the public purse – not from the pockets of the incompetent staff of LCC’s Legal Department and their intransigent masters, where the burden should rightly fall.

For an in-depth round-up of the legal issues, please see campaigner Andy STRANGEWAY’s coverage here:

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