THOUSANDS of pounds in traffic fines will be refunded by Waltham Forest Council after the Government said a controversial box junction may have broken official guidelines.
A box junction was installed at the junction of Leytonstone High Road and Burghley Road last summer, purportedly to keep the junction clear because of temporary roadwork closures, although it has remained there since.
Over the past few months a council CCTV smart car has regularly been sitting opposite the junction snapping people as they enter it, causing fury among motorists, many of whom believe the council has been exploiting traffic congestion to make money.
But following complaints, the council asked the Department for Transport (DfT) for advice on whether the junction breaks regulations.
A DfT spokesman said: "We have offered a view that the road marking may not meet the Traffic Signs and General Directions 2002 because it appears to overlap a cycle lane."
As a result, the authority is now no longer fining people for stopping in the junction, it has cancelled all outstanding fines and is urging people who have been fined there in the past to contact them for a refund.
The news delighted Leytonstone resident George Panteli, who in October unsuccessfully appealed his fine on the basis that the box was too long.
The council's environment cabinet member Cllr Bob Belam had insisted at the time that the junction complied with regulations.
Mr Panteli, 51, of Harold Road, described the council's decision as a "victory for motorists."
He said: "The council deserves all it gets and I am jumping for joy, they fined thousands of people there, although many people won't realise they can get their money back, of course."
Mr Panteli had been planning to take his appeal to an independent parking adjudicator.
He said: "I can't believe the council is refunding all the fines, but I am impressed by this, it is the right thing to do."
Another motorist, Richard Kingswood had his fine cancelled shortly before he was due to take it to an adjudicator.
He said: "With the recent revelation that Waltham Forest have netted more than £4m in parking and traffic fines it is surely high time that they cleaned up their act and started applying the law correctly, ethically and in accordance with their stated policies."
The councillor in charge of traffic and parking has apologised "unreservedly" to motorists and residents for the gaffe that led to thousands of traffic fines being issued incorrectly.
Environment cabinet member Cllr Bob Belam said: "The council is carrying out a thorough investigation to find out why this happened and will be taking steps to ensure that a similar occurence does not happen again.
"As soon as we discovered this error the council instructed our parking contractor to stop issuing tickets incurred by motorists at this junction and have cancelled all outstanding tickets.
"If anyone feels they have been given a fixed penalty at this box junction in error they should contact our parking section and a full refund will be made."
Notices will be placed in the council's WFM newsletter informing motorists they can get their fines refunded.
Cllr Belam said that a decision has yet to be made on whether the junction will be removed or merely altered.
To get your refund call the council's parking department on 8496 3000.
For general information on appealing traffic fines, visit www.ticketfighter.co.uk