An 85-year-old man slapped with a parking fine in Solihull town centre has accused the council of “declaring war on disabled drivers”.
Blue badge holder Ray Powell, who suffers with hip problems and arthritis of the spine, has described the changes to spaces in Mill Lane as “grossly unfair.”
The Olton pensioner received a ticket during a recent visit to the opticians, arguing that current restrictions had forced him to choose between a taxi rank and hatched area.
Mr Powell, who has lodged an appeal with the highways department, has urged road chiefs to ditch changes to the parking facilities, introduced as part of emergency measures to aid social distancing.
He was keen to speak out amid concerns that other disabled drivers were suffering “much distress and confusion”.
The council has said it is trying to juggle the demand for disabled bays with ensuring there was enough space for pedestrians and said there were still alternatives available elsewhere.
Although Mr Powell, who walks with a stick, was incensed by a traffic warden’s suggestion he could instead park at Morrisons supermarket.
“I’m 85-years-old and have hip problems,” said the retired sales manager.
“And they have put flower boxes on the disabled spaces.”
He went on: “It indicates they are not aware parking in Morrisons is strictly for customers, and are they also unaware that walking for the disabled can be extremely painful.”
The pensioner said he had received the £70 penalty charge notice during his trip to the town centre on Friday, July 31.
It was issued after he had pulled up in taxi spaces, which he believed was the “lesser of two evils” compared with a hatched area – although he claims the warden had suggested he should have used this.
He described the removal of bays in the Mill Lane area and in nearby Station Road as “utterly crazy” and has accused the local authority of not giving consideration to blue badge holders.
“The same draconian rules do not exist in hospitals or supermarket parking, and surely the NHS should be the example we all follow,” he said.
The Lib Dem group had raised some concerns about the impact on disabled spaces when the proposals were first approved in May. And Mr Powell has been in touch with his ward councillor, Jo Fairburn, about the policy.
Ceri Smith, head of policy and campaigns at disability equality charity Scope, said: “We understand that new safety measures are needed to help reduce the spread of coronavirus but they should not be at the expense of disabled people.
“It’s unacceptable to risk excluding so many disabled people from enjoying the freedoms opening up, such as going shopping or meeting friends, because of rushed measures which could lead to reduced access.
“Many disabled people cannot access amenities if they can’t park close to them. Reducing the number of blue badge bays available, or removing them from certain locations, could have a hugely detrimental impact.”
Scope has said that more action is needed from both local councils and government to ensure the UK’s 14 million disabled people get support.
According to a poll carried out by the charity last month, 54 per cent of disabled people are concerned that changes to roads in response to the pandemic are making things more inaccessible for them.
Solihull Council confirmed that Mr Powell’s case was going through a “statutory appeals process”, although he has been told this could take some weeks to resolve.
On the changes introduced in May, a spokeswoman said: “Covid-19 has led to a small number of modifications to parking arrangements in Solihull recently.
“As part of this scheme, parking bays are suspended on Mill Lane and Drury Lane in order to provide more space for pedestrians. This enables and encourages people to socially distance in the town centre.
“It was also intended to give space to enable queuing outside of shops if necessary.
“The parking bays on Mill Lane and Drury Lane are only suspended on one side of the road.
“This has created a balance between the need to create additional space for pedestrians as part of making the town centre Covid-secure and the demand for disabled parking close to the town centre.”
The council said it recognised the changes might “impact” on disabled drivers, but said blue badge holders could park for free at Church Hill Road, Dominion Court, Lode Lane, Malvern Park and Mell Square.
The alterations remain under review and are set to be looked at again next month.
“We are continuing to closely monitor the impact of all the measures introduced across the borough.
“Our online feedback portal will remain open throughout August, and all feedback received so far is being reviewed.
“It will be used to inform a decision, due to be taken in September on which of the measures need to be amended, revoked or continued.”