Anger over disabled car park charges in Welwyn Garden City

PLANS to charge disabled motorists for parking in all car parks owned by Welwyn Hatfield Council have been labelled a “misuse of equality legislation” by a disability action group.

Annabelle Waterfield, chief executive of Hertfordshire Action on Disability (HAD), was responding to news that Welwyn Hatfield Council is planning to charge Blue Badge Holders for parking in all five WGC car parks from April 1.

Previously, blue badge holders had been allowed to use two car parks – Hunters Bridge and Church Road – free of charge.

Mrs Waterfield said: “What’s the point of having a Blue Badge if it doesn’t make your life a little easier?

“It’s a muddle, how individual councils can make up their own minds on Blue Badges. The council hasn’t even bothered to run it past the disability organisations, which is pretty naughty.

“There needs to be some national legislation on this. This is a misuse of equality legislation.”

The decision to charge blue badge users was revealed in the council’s annual budget report.

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A council spokeswoman said: “Welwyn Hatfield Council’s cabinet agreed to increase the number of disabled parking spaces in WGC town centre to 23 (from 18), to enable and encourage more disabled drivers to park nearer the shops.

“This decision has been taken alongside one to charge all users of the council’s car parks, from 1 April. This difficult decision was made to enable more efficient management of the borough’s car parks and is in line with the council’s equality and diversity policy.”

But Margaret Birleson, leader of the Welwyn Hatfield Labour group said at the council’s budget meeting this week: “This is one of the few services we give to our disabled residents to take it away from them strikes me as being very mean and petty minded.”