CITY of York Council has decided to refund money to almost 60,000 motorists fined for driving over Lendal Bridge.

Controversial traffic restrictions were introduced on Lendal Bridge last August but the trial was abandoned after an independent review found the council may have acted unlawfully.

A process for the public to claim back the money is currently being worked on, City of York Council has confirmed. Motorists will have to claim a refund in order to get their money back.

Some 56,000 drivers have been issued penalty notices amounting to £1.3 million for driving over Lendal Bridge since the restrictions were put in place, on a trial basis, in August 2013. Additional costs for setting up the project were in the region of £500,000. A City of York spokeswoman has said they cannot yet anticipate the cost of repaying the fines.

The decision does not affect fines given in Coppergate.

On the basis of independent legal advice, the City of York Council had been contesting the Traffic Adjudicator’s challenge to both the Lendal Bridge and Coppergate schemes. It will now only continue to contest the Coppergate order.

Cllr James Alexander said about the decision:  “Councillors from all parties have told me that they want to move on, and they are right. It is for this reason, to draw the matter to a close and as a gesture of goodwill, that we make this announcement today.

“The council does not accept the finding of the Traffic Penalty Tribunal as regards the lawful ability to regulate traffic in this way, and is therefore continuing to pursue a  review of the Tribunal’s decision in relation to the permanent Coppergate order.

“However, the Lendal Bridge trial has now finished, and for this reason, the  council does not consider it to be in the public interest to pursue the review in respect of Lendal Bridge.

“The council has taken the decision that in respect of those people who received a fine during the trial traffic regulation of Lendal Bridge, a refund will be made if they make a particular request to the council. This is due to the clear level of public concern during the trial. It is hoped that this can be seen as a statement of goodwill  and we are drawing a line under the matter.”

Cllr David Levene, cabinet member for transport, said the trial “was never about making money" and that work had to be done to resolve traffic issues in York.

He said:  “But whilst the trial achieved some of its aims, it had become too polarizing an issue, requiring too much  resource, and so detracting from other necessary transport policies.”