How the under fire bus lane enforcement camera plan was passed

Bus lane in Halifax
Bus lane in Halifax

The Calderdale bus lane enforcement plan which has come under criticism has finally been approved.

Councillors were asked to back Cabinet’s recommendation that the council appoint a representative and deputy representative to the Bus Lane Adjudication Service Joint Committee, the final piece in the policy jigsaw.

The controversial move will see automatic number plate recognition cameras installed on the borough’s six bus lanes and some other restricted routes, meaning drivers breaching the rules will be fined.

As well as the specific agenda item the issue resurfaced later in the evening with questions to Cabinet member for Regeneration and Economic Strategy, Coun Barry Collins (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden) during the point of the meeting when councillors can question Cabinet members about their remit.

Coun Collins said the measure, though a small one, was part of the council’s overall policy of trying to get people out of their vehicles and using public transport or other ways of travelling including cyling and walking.

In turn this was aimed at improving air quality in Calderdale and freeing up highways which were frequently jammed up.

People would be encouraged to use buses more if they were able to run on time and ensuring bus lanes were kept clear at certain times was part of that.

Coun Amanda Parsons-Hulse (Lib Dem, Warley) said she was surprised the proposal had gone ahead. “We’re trying to create a welcoming environment for Calderdale and do we really want cameras welcoming our tourists to Calderdale?”

Place Scrutiny Board chair Coun Steven Leigh (Con, Ryburn), Coun Roger Taylor (Con, Northowram and Shelf) and Coun Collins rowed about the issue’s passage through scrutiny and whether full council could further discuss the matter in general terms.

Coun Collins said: “I’m sorry to disappoint but the point is you lost the vote, as in principle we are supporting bus lanes. We only have six.”

He said it would be absurd not to make the appointment.

Coun Jenny Lynn (Lab, Town) said: “We had a thorough debate at scrutiny board and the decision, which may not be to everyone’s liking, was that it be released for implementation.”

Coun Paul Bellenger (Lib Dem, Greetland and Stainland) asked what quantifiable proof was there that investing in the scheme – which will cost around £115,000 to install the pilot project with ultimate annual running costs estimated at around £140,000 for a full scheme – was a sound investment.

“If the fine is £60 it will take 1,666 vehicles per year to cover the cost of installing this scheme,” he said.

Coun Collins replied that capital costs were coming from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, which would not have agreed to the investment inless there was clear evidence it was worthwhile.

“I am aware you make the accusation that we are doing this to raise a lot of money but we’re not. I’m not sure it will raise a lot of money. People will abide by the rules and if they all did we might have a problem covering maintenance costs. I suspect it will even itself out,” he said.

The policy was not just about bus lanes but also regulated streets like Market Street where buses and taxis jammed up because traffic was using that road in defiance of the regulations.

“It has become a problem and we need to deal with it. It’s important,” said Coun Collins.

Local authorities who undertake civil parking enforcement are required by statute to make provision for independent adjudication, in the case of the Bus Lane Adjudication Service Joint Committee, derived from the Transport Act 2000.