The dad of a young girl who has undergone 17 brain surgeries has hit out after he landed with an air zone fine while taking her to a hospital appointment.

Ten-year-old Lyla O’Donovan was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2016 when she was just three and has spent the last seven years going in and out of hospital for treatment and major surgeries.

Before her latest surgery earlier this month, while travelling from home in Catterick, North Yorkshire to Newcastle’s RVI, dad Paul unknowingly clocked a fine in the city’s Clean Air Zone which requires some drivers to pay £12.50 a day.

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Last week (August 10) he received a Penalty Charge Notice fining him £60 for failing to pay the charge, or £120 if he failed to pay within seven days.

Paul O’Donovan, 38, who is in the army, said: “We’d taken Lyla to hospital on July 28 to get the results of an MRI scan then we took her in on August 3 for surgery, and my wife drove back every day that week to visit.

“I didn’t even think with everything going on about the clean air zone.

“I got a letter in the post saying I hadn’t paid on July 28 and I’d been fined £60. I haven’t had fines for the other journeys yet but they’ll be on the way.

The Northern Echo: Layla before she went into surgery at the RVILayla before she went into surgery at the RVI (Image: PAUL O'DONOVAN)

“I appealed and said I know I’ve got a van, but I use it because Lyla has a wheelchair and it won’t fit in the car, we have a blue badge and visit the hospital all the time for appointments.

“They sent a letter back saying I am not exempt, and they have no exemption for blue badges. They just had no compassion whatsoever.

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“They let me pay £12.50 for the fine as a ‘good will gesture’ but said I’d have to pay any other fines I get in full.

“They don’t realise the costs families with children in hospital have. We already have to pay £8 a day to park and for food while we’re there. This is another cost on having a sick child.

The Northern Echo: Lyla has been in and out of hospital with complication after complication for the last seven years.Lyla has been in and out of hospital with complication after complication for the last seven years. (Image: PAUL O'DONOVAN)

“Some are in hospital for a long time, sometimes months, and don’t realise how much money it costs.

“I’m not as bothered about the fines but there should be exemptions for people in our situation.”

Charges for vans and light goods vehicles that don’t meet certain emissions requirements – like Paul’s 15-plate Peugeot Expert van – only came into force on July 17. There are currently no exemptions for blue badge holders or journeys taken for medical purposes.

The Northern Echo: The Clean Air Zone (CAZ) came into force earlier this year with vans being added to the vehicles charged last month.The Clean Air Zone (CAZ) came into force earlier this year with vans being added to the vehicles charged last month.

Lyla is now back home recovering from her latest high-risk surgery and appears to be making a positive recovery.

Paul added: “They will never get all the tumour out but it isn’t going to affect anything.

“She has scanned every six months to see if there has been any growth but there has been none for a long time.”

After being contacted by The Northern Echo Newcastle Council said it would revoke the PCN and exempt the family from the Clean Air Zone charge while it looks at the possibility of doing the same for all blue badge holders.

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A council spokesperson said: “We have every sympathy for Mr O’Donovan and his family.

“Their vehicle attracted a Penalty Charge Notice because it was non-compliant and had entered the Clean Air Zone without paying. There is currently no provision within the terms and conditions of our CAZ to exempt blue badge holders.

“Their appeal was rejected but we have looked at this case again and on reflection have decided to accept their mitigation due to their circumstances. We will also exempt them from future journeys as we look at the possibility of exemptions for all blue badge holders.

“We have written to Mr O’Donovan today and cancelled the Penalty Charge Notice.”