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Saturday, 24 February

The Strong Shall Inherit the Parking Bay

One thing is certain and that is we will all become frailer but why is it that those who are most able will think nothing of parking where they should not – a disabled parking bay? Asks Mike Gannon

As an individual who is disabled and using a car, it might seem blindingly obvious that the nearer you can park to a place, be it at work, retail outlet, hotel or the home, the easier life can be for you.  This is particularly true if you have had a bad day, say from arthritic joints playing up, or your MS has made you particularly weaker.

Maybe it’s a trick of the mind but it is on these days, that many of those parking bays designated for a disabled person, appear occupied - but not by vehicles displaying a Blue Badge. The red mists tend to descend from a mixture of how someone could be so thoughtless as to deny someone who really needs the bay, allied with there being no official in place to force the miscreant to move, or take action.

 

Muscled out

Last summer I was with relatives after a wedding in the Cotswolds. We had booked a hotel on the edge of Gloucester and pulled in, looking for a place to park. All six disabled bays were occupied by sporty type cars or Chelsea tractors. On enquiring at the desk, we found that the hotel had a leisure centre where all the able bodied people were flexing their muscles and running their pants off, while their luxury vehicles had ‘muscled out’ those whose space the bays were meant for.

As it happened, the hotel informed the owners and they moved but there is a problem for both the disabled and those who manage such car parking. There is no legal obligation for people with no conscience to move; so as the law currently stands, no real sanction that will hurt the pocket. Occupying on-street Blue Badge parking bays is an offence. Police officers, traffic wardens, local authority parking attendants and civil enforcement officers have the right to inspect Blue Badges. Without reasonable excuse, it is an offence to refuse or fail to produce a badge for inspection, carrying a maximum fine of £1,000.

It is when we get to the question of off-street bays that the picture becomes decidedly unclear. We are told that supermarket car parks and other places, are ‘private’ and that any disabled bays only have a voluntary status. No matter how you as a disabled person argue with a selfish occupier or a supermarket attendant takes your side, the able bodied so-and-so can cock a snoot.

 

Blind eye

People might remember that George Osborne, yes the Chancellor of the Exchequer, thought nothing of using a disabled bay at a service station in 2013. One columnist on the Daily Mail made great play that she did the same without shame and on a regular basis because….well, she wanted to. ‘I have become inured to the stares, to the smug tut-tuts from couples as I spring, gazelle-fashion, from my vehicle,’ wrote the charming hackette, Liz Jones.  She pointed out she was deaf and so entitled to the same treatment but was immune to the argument that, e.g. an M.S. sufferer would be in greater need than her as she bounded into Waitrose or M&S.

It’s at times like this that I look skyward and ask God to strike the offender down but as He appears similarly deaf to my entreaties and never does, I have to remain a devout atheist.

It is thought that when it comes to the operation of council estate car parking that things are different. But no. Look at the image taken by yours truly of a Ford Transit in a disabled bay at the back of my council flat. That was followed, the next day, by a cabbie who persistently seizes the disabled bay for lunchtimes and weekends.

Over the past two years Hammersmith & Fulham Council has said to residents that national legislation makes it impossible now to tow away vehicles like the one shown. And neither can the parking wardens charge the offenders, even though they can when their vehicles are on-street.  So, the spaces of all are under threat as outsiders have got to know that it’s fair game to hog the off-street bays, even the disabled ones.

 We get told by the council that the officials are waiting for clarity – but we just want our spaces back. By the way, I had to park the Motability car on-street but what does that matter to the likes of George or Liz?

 

Picture: Should you really be there? A commercial vehicle parked in a disabled bay in a Hammersmith & Fulham council car park but because it is off-street, the local authority says that, due to legislation, it cannot charge or tow it away.

Article written by Mike Gannon

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