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Council Car Park Case Settled: A Victory for Blue Badge Holders

Author: The Lively Crew Ltd

Original Publication Date: 2011-01-21

Synopsis and Key Points:

Councils across the UK are being urged to review their parking policies for disabled motorists.

Main Digest

Councils across the UK are being urged to review their parking policies for disabled motorists following the second successful legal challenge against a UK authority by five Blue Badge holders in Norfolk.

The case against Norwich City Council has forced the council to change their disabled policy in line with current legislation as detailed in the Equality Act 2010.

Norwich City Council has now decided to reintroduce reduced rates for disabled drivers with every one hour paid for entitling the Blue Badge holder to an additional hour free.

In June 2009 Norwich City Council decided to change their policy on disabled parking in council run car parks. Their new policy was to remove free parking for disabled people. Norwich based charity Mobilize claimed that, no account was taken of the fact it takes disabled people longer to park and shop and the pay machines in Norwich run council car parks were inaccessible to many of those in wheel chairs.

Helen Dolphin lives locally and works as the Director of Policy and Campaigns at Mobilize Helen is a multiple amputee and walks using two prosthetic legs. It takes Helen longer to get around shops as she needs to rest frequently and is much slower at walking than an abled person. With the proposed changes Helen was paying more for parking than non-disabled persons, due to time needed to complete the task. Helen has little choice in regards to transport as she needs adapted vehicle access and not all buses are accessible. She is limited on how far she can carry shopping so needs to park as close to the shops as possible.

The council called a meeting to answer questions on the matter and they decided to go ahead with the parking charges despite objections raised by Helen and Jim Rawlings, a disabled resident also from Norwich, who attended the meeting - two of the five Blue Badge holders who later challenged the decision.

The council justified their position for the change in policy by saying that charging everyone the same amount was "equal" treatment of both disabled and non-disabled people.

Previously Lincoln Council was the first council to be taken to court over Blue Badge parking rules and its failure to consult disability groups.

Helen read about a similar car parking charge problem in Lincoln and contacted Wake Smith & Tofields solicitors who bought Lincoln Council to task. Through the support of Mobilize, the national charity for disabled motorists in the UK, additional disabled people who were affected by the changes to parking charges came forward to join the cause. In total five Norfolk people claimed against the council.

Paul Harvey, Norwich resident and claimant in the case: "The result was a good one for disabled people. I am an amputee and wheelchair user. My wife has to get my wheelchair in and out of the car, which can take up to twenty minutes. It also takes us a considerably longer time to shop than non-disabled people. I don't mind paying but do need extra parking time for my shopping trips compared with others and I felt I was being penalized."

Martin Harvey, Partner at Wake Smith & Tofields said: "We are delighted with the outcome here in Norwich to assist Blue Badge holders. However it is of some concern that this decision took so long to come to fruition and it is possible it would not have done so at all without the threat of litigation.

"The firm's previous work in Lincoln with Matt Smith has highlighted an injustice many blue badge holders are experiencing across the county and the case here in Norwich is unfortunately now another case to add to that list. We are working with several charities like Mobilize, to help support these people and investigate the car parking charges imposed from a legal point of view. We would urge anyone experiencing similar difficulties to come forward and contact Wake Smith."

Cities like Cambridge offer three hours free for blue badge holders and are within the law. Many councils around the UK may need to look at their current parking policies for disabled people in light of the two recent cases.

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