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Disabled groups call on Craven District Council to keep free parking
8:00am Thursday 30th January 2014 in News
Disabled groups have called on Craven District Council to reverse plans to scrap free parking for blue badge holders.
The Skipton and Craven Multiple Sclerosis Society and Skipton and Craven Action for Disability (SCAD) say the council has acted illegally in its attempt to charge disabled drivers in its car parks.
And the groups, who have launched an online petition which has attracted more than 250 signatures, are promising further action if their demands are not met.
Wendy Witten, spokesman for the groups, told last Tuesday’s policy committee meeting of the council that the proposed charging policy was discriminatory and would contravene laws.
“This policy would ignore the needs of blue badge holders. It would discourage them from taking part in community and public life and would add to their isolation and exclusion,” she said.
Mrs Witten said blue badge holders were amongst the most severely disabled members of society and had fewer opportunities.
“They have difficulty using public transport and cannot benefit from cheaper parking available to others,” she said.
As a result, they were unable to take advantage of concessionary fares and free travel passes and short-term parking concessions.
They also missed out on cheaper car parks away from town centres, free parking before 9am and free parking on Skipton High Street because of the difficulty of negotiating setts.
“All these can be out of the question, impractical or even dangerous. Blue badge holders rely on their cars and using safe council car parks is often their only in-town parking option,” she said.
Mrs Witten further accused the council of failing in its public sector equality duty.
“The Equality Act imposes a public sector equality duty on councils to take the needs of disabled people into account and the council’s proposed policy does not do this,” she said.
Mrs Witten was told by council leader Coun Chris Knowles-Fitton (Cons) that her comments would be taken into account by officers.
In November last year, the council approved the removal of free parking concessions for holders of blue badges in its car parks.
Critics of the plans said charging would result in disabled drivers parking on double yellow lines and blocking routes through the town.
The council estimated an additional £30,000 per year would be generated by introducing charging.
Charging is subject to approval by North Yorkshire County Council, the highways authority, and was at the time estimated to take around six months.
Meanwhile, copies of the petition are available at SCAD shops in Newmarket Street, Skipton and in Ilkley, or on the MS group’s Facebook page.
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