A disabled grandmother notched up £3,000 of fines after driving through low traffic road closure

A disabled grandmother amassed nearly £3,000 in fines after repeatedly driving on a route she had used for years unaware the council had just closed it to cars.

Maria Forsmark, 57, drove her daughter to and from school unaware that a newly introduced “bus gate” meant she was barred access while a camera was recording her number plate to trigger fines.

Just over a week later four penalty charge notice fines each day began landing on her doormat leaving her feeling “overwhelmed with panic”.

After lockdown was lifted and schools reopened, the grandmother had driven 22 times from her Hither Green home in south east London through a new Low Traffic Neighborhood (LTN) in Lee Green.

Mrs Forsmark, who is classified as disabled and needs a stick to walk short distances, said she had not understood the new bus gate sign on Manor Lane meant cars were banned.

The fines would have come to a total of £2,860 at the full rate, or £1,430 at the reduced payment.

“I have been driving that route for many years,” Mrs Forsmark, who severely damaged her knee in a fall in 2011, said. 

“Had I been warned it would suddenly be closed and could lead to so many fines I would never have driven through it.

“When I got my first fine I was shocked. I tried to pay it straight away. Then I began getting three or four fines a day.

“I was stressed and felt overwhelmed with panic. Where was I going to get the money? I just felt like I couldn’t cope.

“Everyday more fines arrived through the door. I was getting scared to go out due to Covid and now scared to be home because of the fines turning up.”

The family was contacted by other people who had received numerous fines, including a healthcare worker who had been travelling to and from work at a nearby hospital where she had been battling Covid 19.

However, when the local newspaper, the South London Press, contacted the council all but one of the fines was quashed. 

And, earlier this month the local authority adjusted its camera on Manor Lane so it only fined heavy goods vehicles.

A Lewisham Council spokeswoman said the road markings had clearly stated ‘bus gate’ and made clear the route was only open to buses, cyclists and emergency vehicles. However there were no ‘road closed’ or ‘no entry signs’ because some vehicles were still permitted.

Mrs Forsmark added: “How can the council set up traps like that for people who are already worried about money, their jobs and health?”

It has emerged newly installed cameras targeting motorists who entered the most recent spate of LTNs in Lewisham had boosted town hall coffers with more than £3 million in fines. The council has spent more than £275,000 on LTNs.

The Lewisham Council spokeswoman added: “Mrs Forsmark received a number of tickets due to driving through the signed restrictions a number of times. We were in touch with Mrs Forsmark in October and as a goodwill gesture we agreed to cancel all but one of the fines issued. 

“All signage used is legally compliant in accordance with the Highway Code. We would ask motorists to respect the restrictions to avoid receiving tickets. We have seen a 91 per cent drop in contraventions since the camera enforcement started, so the majority of people are following the rules.

“All funds raised through parking and traffic management charges go into a ring-fenced account to be used for transport and parking-related activities.”

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