By Toby Porter
An 87-year-old widow has amassed a total of £3,000 in fines after driving through road blocks she says she did not see during the most restrictive part of lockdown.
Kate Redfern accrued 17 PCNs, reduced to 14 because of the sheer number, after using her car in Burbage and Townley Roads in Dulwich – to go for walks on the orders of her doctor.
But Southwark council has now scrapped the outstanding fines.
Mrs Redfern drove through Low Traffic Neighbourhood barriers – designed to cut car use – from December last year until February after 3pm, when the driving ban operated.
It was the only times she left her house for exercise, as she was classified as vulnerable and had to isolate, after having a stent put into her heart.
The massive bill mounted up because she obeyed instructions not to touch her post due to Covid – she did not go near the PCN envelopes.
One of the fines had escalated to £230 in that time.
The grandmother-of-four, a former special needs teacher in Bromley, has now been given a schedule of £100 a month to pay for the next 30 months.
Mrs Redfern, whose daughter died five years ago – and her late husband shortly before – said: “I went the same way to drive somewhere to park every time – just so I could get out of the house as I am not as young as I used to be and needed some exercise.
“The £3,000 total is very upsetting. It was awful to realise how much I would have to pay.
“I will not go hungry because I inherited some money two years ago. But before that, it would have presented a serious problem for me. As it is, that money would have paid for a very nice holiday.
“I did not see the road signs. I have lived here for 50 years and been driving that route for most of that time.
“I appealed on all of them. Southwark said they would cancel three of them just because there were so many. I have a pension as a teacher but I really didn’t want to eat into it with driving fines for going for a walk.
“I realise it is partly my own fault because I let the PCNs lie on the floor. But we were not supposed to pick up our post at the time.
“We were given no prior notice of these measures. It is unbelievable. I am a law-abiding citizen just driving down the road to do my 30 minutes of exercise in the middle of a pandemic.”
A letter from Southwark Parking Services cancelling one fine for driving northbound along Dulwich Village to Pickwick Road said: “I have noted your comments and can confirm that on this occasion as a goodwill gesture for multiple PCNs issued for the same location, the PCN has been cancelled and reduced to a warning notice.
No further action will be taken on this matter.
“Please note that this does not set precedent for how we will deal with other PCNs issued.”
A spokesman for One Dulwich said: “The road blocks are causing huge problems for frail pensioners and the disabled and the people who care for them.
This was brought up again and again at the meetings Southwark organised for these groups in August.
“The 24/7 closure of the main east-west crossroads in Dulwich Village, for example, blocks Blue Badge holders, nurses, carers and GPs, and makes it very hard for those with mobility problems to get to appointments at their GP surgeries, the Tessa Jowell Health Centre, or local hospitals.
“Many at the meetings spoke movingly of the mental health consequences they suffer from being ‘kettled in’ and of the isolation and depression they feel because family members and elderly friends no longer visit because of the fear of fines and getting stuck in traffic.”
Cllr Catherine Rose, Cabinet Member for environment, leisure and roads, said: “We have corresponded with Ms Redfern about three of her PCN fines, which have been paid, and another three that we cancelled. We have withdrawn her remaining 10 PCNs.
“We have supported a number of vulnerable residents in this way and manage PCNs on a case by case basis.
“More broadly, we have listened to and acted upon residents’ concerns. For example, as part of our review process we have recommended that timed restrictions are halved, in line with our road closures outside schools at drop off and pick up times. We aim to support residents with the changes and hope to maintain the benefits of active travel and the reduction in car journeys across the whole Dulwich area.”
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