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Disabled Bays Stay Empty

August 25, 2010 9:13 AM
Empty disabled parking bays in Epsom

Taken at 2.00 pm on Saturday 21 August, this photo shows the current situation

Lib Dem councillors in Epsom and Ewell are keeping a close eye on empty Disabled Parking bays in the Town Hall car park, since the council increased provision from 9 up to 20 bays, earlier this month.

Cllr Julie Morris, who has received complaints from residents as well as drivers who are unable to find a parking space, says "Hands up - we may have got it wrong here. The increased provision of disabled bays was agreed by everyone but at a time when the entire focus was against the ruling RA group's policy to charge disabled drivers for parking. A recent consultation with Blue Badge holders found that only 25% put the Town Hall car park as their first choice car park, so to increase provision by over 100% was probably too much. We don't want to see huge increases in council tax to compensate for loss of income in car parks."

Colleague Cllr Anna Jones added "This latest development is over the top, unnecessary and will cause resentment. Ultimately, shoppers may choose to shop elsewhere which is bad news for local businesses."

The situation on Saturday 21st August involved at least 8 disabled bays empty most of the time, many of those disabled drivers who did park received warning notices because they had not paid, a complaint was made to Cllr Morris in the car park by a non-disabled driver. At the time the photograph was taken (2.00pm) drivers were leaving the car park because they couldn't find a non-disabled bay. Lib Dem councillors have made their views known to the council's Director of Operations, who says "we need to monitor the situation over a significant period".

Cllr Christine Howells, who is now an Independent councillor after resigning from the RA group over the introduction of charges for Blue Badge holders, commented "The bays are far too imposing, draw unnecessary attention to the disabled and imply that they cannot find a space with ordinary signing. We should be normalising as much as possible for the disabled and not siting 8 ft high notices."

Lib Dem councillors are happy that a review of the situation is under way but still want improvements in the Ashley Centre car park (first choice for most disabled drivers) made a priority. The Lib Dems hope to be proven wrong and see the bays taken up in the fullness of time. They say there would be no point in retaining a large number of disabled bays in a car park which a majority of disabled drivers don't really want to use. Each bay costs about £50 to paint with the disabled logo plus the cost of the metal signs and about £50 to return to non-disabled use.