Free Parking for Disabled to be Scrapped in Newcastle Car Parks.
Council transport officials believe that the charges will “help balance the demand for disabled bays”, but charity Disability North warned the move makes the city centre “more unfriendly”. Axeing the no-fee offer for disabled drivers and passengers in the city’s council-run car parks was controversially signed off as part of budget cuts 18 months ago, but was not implemented.
But the changes are now expected to come into force later this year, meaning people with blue badges will have to pay to use popular car parks like those at Eldon Square or Eldon Garden.
The charity Disability North has labelled Newcastle City Council’s decision “very disappointing”, warning it creates another barrier for people with mobility issues who want to come into the city centre.
The 10,000-plus residents and organisations in Newcastle with a blue badge will still be able to park for free in on-street spaces, while the council is also offering to add an extra hour for free at car parks after their ticket expires to make sure people have enough time to get back to their car.
Council transport officials believe that the charges will “help balance the demand for disabled bays” in different locations, but Disability North chief executive Victoria Armstrong said the move “makes the city centre more unfriendly to disabled people”.
She added: “It is very disappointing that the council is continuing with this. No matter how local authorities try to make city centres accessible, they remain challenging for people with mobility issues – this just creates another barrier. In times of austerity, disabled people have suffered most. It is expensive to be a disabled person and this just adds another cost. It feels like the council could have looked elsewhere for these cuts.”
As well as the new fees for blue badge holders, the council is also planning to increase the membership fee for the Shopmobility service providing battery-powered scooters and wheelchairs from £25 to £100 per year. Hourly fees of 50p are also set to be introduced at the Melbourne Court West and Pottery Lane car parks, with all of these changes predicted to generate an extra £115,000 a year for the cash-strapped council.
A spokesperson for Newcastle City Council said: “The difficult decision to introduce charging for blue badge spaces in our off-street car parks was made as part of the budget process last year. This was in response to both the significant reductions in funding that councils are facing and the need to manage demand for accessible parking, particularly in our busier car parks. However, in recognition of the fact that blue badge holders may need extra time we are giving an extra hour’s parking free of charge to ensure people have enough time to get back to their vehicle”.
“Blue badge holders will also continue to be able to park for free in all of our on-street parking bays. We will shortly be formally advertising the legal car park order that includes these proposals and this will be followed by a period of 21 days in which people can raise any objections. “Subject to the outcome of this process we would anticipate the new charges in car parks to be implemented later this year.”