Couple challenge Welwyn Hatfield Council over blue badge charges

A HUSBAND and wife are set to mount a legal challenge against Welwyn Hatfield Council’s decision to charge disabled motorists for parking in WGC.

Don and Sheila Whelan say the introduction of parking charges in all WGC car parks is “financially penalising” registered Blue Badge holders, and is a breach of the Disability Discrimination Act.

Mr Whelan claims the council is actually putting disabled people at a disadvantage, as they need to park for longer while out walking and shopping.

Until April 1 this year, parking in two of Welwyn Hatfield Council’s five WGC car parks – Hunters Bridge and Church Road – was free for disabled people.

But that all changed when it was revealed in the council’s 2010 annual budget that people with mobility problems would be charged the same – �2.10 after the first hour – to park as people without any difficulties.

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Mr Whelan’s wife Sheila, 76, has remitting MS and walks with a stick to keep her balance when out shopping.

“Disabled people require about double the time to do their shopping and must be able to park very near the shops,” said Mr Whelan, 74.

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“By not giving a concession, the council is in breach of the Act because the disabled will be at a disadvantage.”

Mr Whelan, from King James Avenue, Cuffley, added: “If nothing is done, I shall take the matter to the minister responsible, or any tribunal, or to the civil courts.”

The couple have written to the Local Government Ombudsmen, asking that their case be taken up.

Under disability equality duty, public bodies are obliged to “take steps to take account of disabled persons’ disabilities, even where that involves treating disabled persons more favourably than other persons”.

A council spokeswoman said: “We are aware of the complaint submitted by Mr and Mrs Whelan and are awaiting confirmation from the local ombudsman if the complaint will be investigated.”

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