Council could make disabled pay to park

By Benedict O'ConnorA COUNCIL has been criticised for considering charging disabled drivers to use its car parks.St Edmundsbury Borough Council is currently reviewing its parking strategy and is considering charging disabled blue badge holders to use its off-street car parks for the first time in Bury St Edmunds and elsewhere in the borough.

By Benedict O'Connor

A COUNCIL has been criticised for considering charging disabled drivers to use its car parks.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council is currently reviewing its parking strategy and is considering charging disabled blue badge holders to use its off-street car parks for the first time in Bury St Edmunds and elsewhere in the borough.

But the Disabled Drivers' Association has come out strongly against the move, warning disabled shoppers would shun the town and spend their money elsewhere.

An association spokesman said many disabled drivers were on low incomes, often related to their disability, and could not afford to pay to park.

He added other disabled drivers would chose to shop elsewhere where they could park for free, which would have an effect on trade, while tourism could also be affected if disabled motorists were put off from visiting by the charges.

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“We have adopted a national policy of opposing parking charges for the disabled wherever possible, but this is a worrying trend which is unfortunately gaining momentum,” said the spokesman.

“We are not saying that all disabled drivers are poor, but the fact is many of our members are elderly and living on benefits.

“Not only could it have an adverse affect on the lives of disabled drivers, but local shopkeepers and tourism providers could also be hit by drivers deciding to go to Bury less often and take their custom elsewhere. This is something we would oppose very strongly.”

James Powell, a spokesman for Optua, formerly Rethink Disability, said it was pleased that St Edmundsbury Borough Council was consulting disability groups about the issue.

But he added: “We would be concerned if charges were brought in which meant disabled people were discouraged from visiting Bury St Edmunds.”

A council spokesman said: “We have been asked by members to carry out a review of our car parking policy as part of the DR-IVE initiative and to make sure provision serves the needs of all sections of the local community.

“We have held initial discussions with local disability groups and before any decision is made we will carry out a thorough and detailed consultation with all disability groups in order to gather their feedback.”

It is expected the parking review, which arose from the need to address the town's parking provision in the light of the Cattle Market redevelopment, will be completed within the next 12 months.

benedict.o'connor@eadt.co.uk

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