A BUSINESS group claims to have found a loophole in a scheme which bans cars from using town centre roads.

In October, Essex County Council reinstated bus lanes in Colchester, following a failed car ban trial in March.

The lanes mean car drivers cannot turn right into North Hill, from Middleborough, or from High Street, into Queen Street, at Colchester Castle.

However, North Hill Association, which represents 15 firms, has challenged highways bosses.

Solicitor David Morgan- Jones, group spokesman, said a paragraph included in the official traffic regulation order states any vehicles which are bound for homes, businesses or shops in North Hill can legitimately use the southbound bus lane.

Mr Morgan-Jones said: “I was told each and every time I queried it, there would be no exceptions, but we have proof now tickets for people here in North Hill are totally unenforceable.

“They can’t enforce something which has no grounds in law.”

Mr Morgan-Jones said he has continued to use the right turn from Middleborough to North Hill since the cameras were turned on, on October 24.

He added: “I’ve haven’t had a ticket yet, but I am looking forward to getting one.”

Ken Chambers, who runs Cellini’s Nail Technicians, in North Hill, said he has seen a significant drop in trade.

Mr Chambers, who has run the shop for 50 years, said: “I have certainly seen far fewer clients since this lane was put in place. The route people have to take because of the buses is unrealistic, difficult and confusing.

“They now prefer to go to Ipswich or Chelmsford.”

An Essex County Council spokesperson said: “Essex County Council is aware of the issue which has been raised by a member of the public regarding North Hill.

“While it is technically accurate that the bus lane may be used for the purposes of access to or from premises on North Hill, this is an unintended consequence of the wording in the traffic regulation order, and Essex County Council is taking advice on the matter.

“The traffic relation order has been implemented on an experimental basis so that we are able to monitor the impact of the scheme and make amendments as appropriate.”

40 fines per day issued by council

800 fines have been issued to motorists who are using controversial bus lanes in Colchester town centre.

The lanes, which mean drivers cannot turn right into North Hill from Middleborough, or from High Street, into Queen Street, came into effect on October 14.

Traffic cameras did not start recording offending motorists until ten days later.

Up until November 14, about 40 fines were given out per day.

The bus lanes scheme, implemented by Essex County Council, has been criticised by drivers, who claim the council is using them as cash cows and has not publicised it enough.

David Smith, of Speedwell Road, Colchester, said he has used both lanes unwittingly in the early hours of the morning.

He said: “I was not even aware of these bus lanes until a taxi driver told me.

“Why is there a need for a bus lane at times when buses are not operating?

“Essex County Council should have written to every motorist in the town giving them notice. It’s all about getting money.”

An Essex County Council spokeswoman said: “The cameras record vehicles as they move through the bus lanes.

“These recordings are then reviewed before any penalty charge notice is issued.

“Between October 24 and November 14, 802 penalty charge notices have been issued.”

Fines cost £90, but are reduced to £30 if they are paid within 28 days.