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Disabled Parking in Brentwood

July 10, 2020 7:05 AM
By Cllr Karen Chilvers

Disabled badgeIn 2018 I was successful in making Brentwood a 'no tolerance borough' as far as parking in disabled spaces was concerned. No ifs, no buts... if you were parked in a disabled bay without a valid blue badge you got a ticket. It was one of the highlights of my lengthy council career as this was agreed cross-party, unanimously and the result met with a round of applause - unusual for an opposition member! Having been rendered disabled by an accident in 2015, it meant a lot to me as I understood first-hand how vital these accessible and convenient spaces are.

However, despite the initial burst of activity, in the High Street particularly, you would not now know that this was the case.

I've quietly fought behind the scenes every time our councils have taken out the High Street facility whenever there were works in the area, lest some healthy fit contractors should have to walk a bit, or happily let market traders use the blue badge spaces for loading and unloading. I lost it when Brentwood Council closed half the William Hunter Way blue badge car park for three months, although that resulted in a gain as more spaces were installed permanently in the main car park after my action. I have fumed and lobbied for enforcement at Christmas when the disabled spaces weren't respected, as if Santa brings out new working limbs for disabled folk on Christmas Eve.

Recently, an email from council officers confirmed that they wouldn't bother to ticket in the High Street during the Covid-19 lockdown at exactly the time disabled people needed them the most. I understand my response may have changed their minds, although they did helpfully suggest we park on double yellow lines (the flaw being that everyone was allowed to).

But the latest insensitivity has left me fuming.

During the High Street weekend closures, our Conservative councils of Essex and Brentwood have moved the blue badge parking to St Thomas Road. Let me put that in perspective. A disabled person on disability benefit is unlikely to be able to walk more than 50m, 20m if on high rate benefit. If lucky enough to park outside Starbucks, Boots is 30m away and it becomes possible to collect a prescription, for example, exercising some independence. From St Thomas Road, it's 292m.

I am unsure whether our local councils don't understand or don't care, but they need to be reminded, clearly, that disability is permanent, it does not take a day off on bank holidays, during maintenance works or pandemics. I wish it would but it does not, and we need our facilities just so life can begin to be equitable.

Cllr Karen ChilversCllr Karen Chilvers

Liberal Democrat