COUNTY Hall plans to resume fining motorists driving through Oxford’s controversial bus gate next month after winning a landmark High Court ruling.

The county council suspended camera enforcement in High Street last summer when 10 months of roadworks began.

Last May, the future of the scheme was plunged into doubt when the traffic Penalty Tribunal ruled the council should not be penalising drivers for entering a ‘bus lane’ – because the area was not signposted as such.

Mr Justice Jack Beatson upheld the council’s High Court appeal that it was allowed to fine drivers £60 for entering an area prohibited to motor vehicles. However, he conceded some of the council’s signs were “misleading” as they implied the prohibition applied at all times – and not just between 7.30am and 6.30pm.

Yesterday High Street traders said they were disappointed that enforcement would recommence, claiming the cameras prevented both customers and suppliers from visiting their businesses.

Traders have requested their vehicles, and those of suppliers, be issued with special permits by the council to exempt them from fines.

David Marcus, who runs Reginald Davis jewellers, said suppliers were now faced with parking in car parks and carrying expensive items through the city centre.

He said: “I’m disappointed the bus gate will be coming back into force as I thought it was a chance for the council to review this situation. We have had suppliers who have stopped calling us because they can’t get direct access to the shop.

“They say it’s too much trouble to come to Oxford.”

If the authority had lost the judicial review it could have been forced to pay back £1.35m collected in fines between April 2007 and March 2009. Seventy motorists have appealed against their fines.

Neil Ritchie, 51, who runs the Jolly Farmers pub, in Paradise Street, said: “Without a doubt the bus gate puts off tourists.

“Tourists do not use park & rides, they come into the city and then find their route is blocked.”

County council spokesman Owen Morton said it was too early to find out how much the authority had spent on the judicial review. However, the council has agreed not to recover costs from the tribunal at the judge’s request.

He said: “The council has been confident since the outset that its staff had implemented the gates correctly and this ruling has vindicated its stance.

“Bus gate enforcement is crucial to traffic management in Oxford city centre and this decision will enable the city to continue to meet the economic and environmental challenges it faces.”

Mr Morton said the council would be happy to discuss suggestions to improve the bus gate with businesses and will seek to work with the Department of Transport to improve signing.

He added: “Drivers should not run the risk of a fine by driving down the High Street unless they have an exemption.

“Roadworks end in the first half of May, the council will look to resume enforcement after that.”