Obstruction of the public highway not accepted

Thursday 13 October 2022

In July 2021, a uniformed Enforcement Officer was on patrol in Woodford Green when he was asked by a member of the public about several Royal Mail postal trollies (High Capacity Trollies – HCTs) in the area, that were reportedly causing highway obstruction by being left on the pavement affixed to street furniture.  The officer, thereafter, noted a number of such trollies secured to Council lamp and street sign posts in the locality. The officer established from LBR Highways Dept. that in chaining/locking the trollies to Council street furniture, without there being a permit being in force, the Royal Mail was acting unlawfully. The Council considered that in causing such obstruction of the highway, the trollies posed potential hazards to pedestrians, those using child buggies/prams, wheelchair users and the visually impaired. Royal Mail Group, who operate the trollies as part of postal delivery were therefore advised, more than once, to remove them from Council street furniture, as their continued use in being left unattended, would result in fixed penalty notices being issued.  


Despite the warnings, over the next few months, the officer noted similarly secured trollies, unattended and chained to street furniture across the Borough.  He therefore issued Royal Mail Group with a number of  £100 fixed penalty notices for highway obstruction, all of which were later paid. Between January and April 2022, the officer issued  Royal Mail Group with a further eight £100 fixed penalty notices, having observed trollies secured to street furniture and left unattended.


In April 2022, Royal Mail Group made representations against the penalties, stating that the trollies were never usually left unattended for longer than 10 mins, hadn’t caused any obstructions and were an essential part of postal service delivery.  LBR’s Legal Team, however, advised that the penalties had been correctly issued. Royal Mail Group was informed that should they not pay the outstanding penalties, then the Enforcement Team would progress a prosecution in the Magistrates Court.


Royal Mail Group’s own Legal Team challenged the Council’s viewpoint about  the obstruction caused by the trollies and advised that the organisation would not pay the penalty notices. This led to Royal Mail Group being later summonsed on 8 charges of ‘obstructing the highway to the interruption of any user’.


In September 2022, at Barkingside Magistrates Court, Royal Mail Group pleaded not guilty to the charges and a trial was set for  22.11.22.  On that day, however, they changed their pleas to guilty, with the Council pursuing  4 of the original 8 charges.


In sentencing Royal Mail Group, the Magistrates  fined them £1,500, ordered payment of £4250 towards the Council’s costs and £150 Victim’s Surcharge.  Total £5,900