CONCERNS have been raised about pressures on disabled parking spaces in Stratford ahead of changes to blue badge rules.
The government recently announced the criteria for disabled parking permits would be altering to allow those with hidden disabilities – such as autism, dementia or anxiety – to qualify from August 30.
Some 25,000 people across the county currently have blue badges.
But both Warwickshire County Council (WCC) and Stratford District Council (SDC) were unable to tell the Observer how many disabled parking spaces were actually available.
Elizabeth Dixon, founder of Accessible Stratford – which works to make the town more disability-friendly – is concerned about the pressure more permits will put on parking in the town.
She is calling on the county and district councils to ensure enough spaces would be available to cope with the extra demand.
She told the Observer: “The biggest change in 50 years affecting parking regulations for the disabled is set be enacted. This will improve the quality of life for many but will also inevitably increase the demand for blue badge parking, potentially creating a new set of transport pressures for Stratford.
“The change in demand for blue badges will take months to materialise as those who are newly entitled begin the process of applying for them.
“During that time those with responsibility for transport must act quickly to make decisions on how parking provision within Stratford town must change if the noble objectives underpinning these new regulations are to be fully honoured in accommodating this further demand.”
The county council, which is responsible for on-street car parks, and the district council, which is responsible for off-street car parks, said no extra spaces would be made available.
A WCC spokeswoman said: “We constantly review provision of spaces. The current guidance issued within the new legislation does not require local authorities to arbitrarily increase provision, however we will continue to monitor demand for disabled parking and make provision as required.
“Currently disabled badge holders can not only park in disabled bays, but in pay and display bays and on double yellow lines for up to three hours. As such there is already significant availability of parking for disabled badge holders.”
And an SDC spokeswoman said: “The council is aware that the number of drivers with blue badges is likely to rise. Whilst the district council has no plans to increase the number of disabled parking bays in its car parks, vehicles displaying blue badges are able to park in disabled bays or any standard bays within the car parks free of charge.”