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Disabled residents to pay more for parking permits

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Prices are going up to harmonise costs across the merged BCP Council area
Prices are going up to harmonise costs across the merged BCP Council area

CHRISTCHURCH residents with disabled tax-exempt vehicles will have to pay more for parking permits.

A flat £25 annual permit will be rolled out across the BCP Council area, up from £15 which Christchurch applicants previously paid that lasted until their Blue Badges expired, usually issued for three years.

There are approximately 3,000 disabled tax-exempt vehicles (DTEV) permit holders across the three towns. Active permits issued under the previous schemes will continue to be valid until expiry.

A plan to scrap permits completely and adopt a Blue Badge-only parking initiative – saving parking costs for the BCP area’s 22,500 badge-holders – was rejected by the council, in part because of the potential revenue lost.

The move, which was approved by BCP Council’s cabinet, follows a major expansion of the Blue Badge scheme to include those with non-visible disabilities.

The permits were previously free in Bournemouth, while in Poole they were £15 annually for residents, £25 non-residents. The new permit will be free to applicants receiving council tax support.

New Forest District Council does not charge for Blue Badge disabled parking in car parks.

In rejecting the Blue Badge-only option, the cabinet recognised that those qualifying for DTEV would need to meet more stringent criteria. But lost revenue was a key factor.

An officers’ report said: “It’s not known how many Blue Badge holders from outside of the council area are visiting BCP Council car parks.

“If every Blue Badge holder living within BCP Council area took up one-hour free parking just once a month for a year this would cost in lost parking income approximately £270,000 rising to £289,000 with expected increased Blue Badge applications.”

Cllr Andy Hadley, BCP cabinet portfolio holder for transport and infrastructure, said: “The plans approved by cabinet will enable the implementation of a unified disabled tax-exempt permit scheme.

“By providing free permits to those who receive council tax support benefits, we will ensure the most vulnerable people in our local area are protected. Permit holders will benefit from being able to use their permits to park across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole for the first time.”

Last month, in the biggest change to Blue Badges since the 1970s, the Department for Transport expanded the eligibility criteria for the badges, which now includes people who cannot walk as part of a journey without considerable psychological distress or the risk of serious harm.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We know that for some people, the possibility of not being able to find a parking space can make even leaving the house a challenge, which is why the Blue Badge is so important.

“The scheme, which is already a lifeline for so many disabled people, will make a huge difference to those with non-visible conditions such as autism, dementia, Parkinson’s and arthritis. It is my sincere wish that these changes will improve even more people’s lives.”

Parking spaces

No changes will be made to the provision of disabled parking spaces, despite millions more people potentially being eligible to use them, the BCP Council cabinet member for transport has said.

Cllr Andy Hadley said the existing approach of regularly monitoring their use would continue following the widening of who can apply for blue badges, writes Josh Wright of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

People in England with ‘hidden disabilities’ – which include dementia, anxiety disorders and brain injuries – are now eligible to ask the council for a blue badge.

But charities have warned that councils have not taken steps to increase the number of disabled parking spaces ahead of the expansion of the scheme.

Ceri Smith, policy and campaigns manager at disability equality charity Scope, said the new criteria was welcome but described the lack of preparation from some councils as “extremely worrying”.

“This change should make a real difference but more also needs to be done by councils to ensure that there are enough allocated blue badge spaces near shops and amenities to meet increasing demand.”

Cllr Hadley, BCP Council cabinet member for transport and infrastructure, said: “As standard our car parks will contain approximately 6% of disabled spaces.

“We actively monitor the usage of these spaces and every six months carry out a review which includes listening to customer feedback. Disabled spaces may increase or decrease depending on the results of this work.”

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