YORK'S council leader wants an internal review of the city's controversial Lendal Bridge and Coppergate traffic restrictions, in the wake of a damning report by a Government expert - saying the way the schemes have been run is not good enough.
Traffic adjudicator Stephen Knapp's judgement on the two schemes, released yesterday, said City of York Council had "no power" to fine motorists who breached the rules on both routes and branded warning signs "inadequate".
The restrictions remain in force today, with the council saying it is seeking legal advice over Mr Knapp's report and its potential implications. A decision on whether the Lendal Bridge trial is continued, extended or abandoned is due to be made by the Labour cabinet on May 6.
Council leader James Alexander said this afternoon: “The principle of reducing private traffic in our historic city centre is right given the increasing problem we have with congestion.
"Many successful cities around the world have embarked on the same bold journey. But we accept the implementation of this policy has not been to a standard my colleagues and I would expect.
“Therefore, despite assurances from the Department for Transport on signage, traffic restrictions being in place along Coppergate since the late 1960s and the Lendal Bridge trial mirroring other restrictions around the country, and in light of new information from the traffic adjudicator, I have written to the chief executive confirming my request for an internal review of both the Lendal Bridge trial and enforcement of the Coppergate traffic restriction”.
Coun Dave Merrett, cabinet member for transport, is already facing calls to resign or consider his position following Mr Knapp's judgement.
Conservative group leader Coun Chris Steward said: "It is only right the council fully investigates the farce of the Lendal Bridge trial, but it is disappointing Coun Alexander is seeking to pass the buck.
"He should investigate, but he and his administration should take the blame for their choices and their failed policy. The damage is done for what is left of this failed administration’s reputation, but we must and will limit the damage of the trial for the good of York’.
Liberal Democrat leader Coun Keith Aspden has written to Coun Alexander and the council's chief executive, Kersten England, saying the authority has "lost control of events" and continuing the Lendal Bridge closure is "untenable". He said a cross-party scrutiny inquiry should be held.
“Since yesterday’s ruling, the council seems to have just buried its head in the sand, and what we need is decisive leadership to prevent things getting any worse," he said.
“Lendal Bridge should be reopened and the cameras must be turned-off immediately. To do anything else would be extremely reckless and would risk doing further damage to York’s reputation. The council is opening itself up to costly legal challenges and claims of maladministration if it continues to enforce a policy which it has been told is essentially unlawful.
“We also need to know if the council has any plans to refund the fines issued so far, how much this would cost, and how much legal advice is costing and is likely to cost in the future.”
More than 53,000 penalty charge notices were issued to drivers during the six-month Lendal Bridge trial - which ended in February, although the restrictions are being maintained until a decision on the scheme's future is taken - and almost 10,000 fines sent out for breaching the Coppergate traffic rules between the end of September and the end of February.