Second challenge to disabled parking fines in North Dorset
ANOTHER blue badge holder is challenging North Dorset District Council’s policy of charging the disabled to park in ordinary parking bays in its off-street car parks.
As reported last week, Mike Davis from Okeford Fitzpaine is refusing to pay a fine for leaving his car parked in the Marsh and Ham car park in Blandford. Mr David had his blue badge displayed but was not parked in a designated space for disabled drivers.
Now John Colgan, who recently moved to Blandford from outside the county, has challenged the penalty imposed on his friend’s car when he parked in Eagle House car park and was told he was liable because he had not used one of the marked disabled bays.
Mr Colgan says he had not realised the distinction between marked and unmarked bays, but that closer examination of the pay station notice revealed that the words “in disabled bays” were on a sticky label behind which read “in designated bays”.
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“So historically the disabled were permitted to park in standard bays with their badge if disabled bays were not available or full,” he said.
“This is the case in most other local authorities as there are never enough disabled bays for all disabled users.
“The disabled bays were approximately 75 yards from where we parked, and much closer, on the street next to the car park, there were double yellow lines where we could have parked with the safety of the Blue Badge and not received a parking ticket.
“The extra distance to walk to and from a disabled bay is beyond the capabilities of most disabled people that qualify for a Blue Badge, and some of the local car parks have disabled bays positioned even more badly.”
Mr Colgan made a Freedom of Information request for a copy of the traffic order and committee minutes imposing the charge for disabled drivers in unmarked bays, and also asked how North Dorset justified charging for other bays when other authorities did not.
The answer, he says, was inadequate, only referring him to a Cabinet decision of September 2011 containing the Parking Place Order highlighting the parking regulations in the district, and telling him that “other authorities in Dorset charge for disabled parking unless users are in receipt of Higher Rate of Mobility or equivalent and then an exemption permit must be obtained from the respective councils. Therefore this council feels that it is offering more than other authorities in Dorset.”
He said that since he was told, in the response to his FOI request, that a further review of parking charges was under way, he recommended all drivers with an interest in disability right to use Blue Badges to contact their councillor and complain that they are being criminalised and penalised.
“Or maybe they aren’t supposed to use their cars for shopping, or go home if there isn’t an available disabled parking bay,” he said.
A spokesman for North Dorset District Council said: “The driver responsible for the car should read the notice, if he/she is in doubt, to ensure they are parked correctly.
“There was confusion many years ago about the phrase “designated bays” which originally meant those bays designated as reserved for disabled badge holders as opposed to any marked parking space. Which is why we changed the wording to “disabled bays”.
“There is no uniform ruling covering charging for parking in off-street car parks across Dorset. Different authorities do this in different ways which is why the parking charges are always on display so there should be no misunderstanding.
“This council does not discriminate against, criminalise or penalise holders of Blue Badges. They are road users the same as any other driver/tax payer and should abide by the law and by local parking regulations, the same as other drivers.”