One strike rule after Blue Badge parking changes

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COUNCIL chiefs announced a fines amnesty for disabled drivers parking ticketed after a rule change row.

The confirmation comes after a furious Blue Badge user accused wardens of allegedly operating an entrapment scam.

Events organiser John Dawson was left “angry and incredulous” when he was given a £50 penalty notice after parking up in a disabled bay – complete with official wheelchair emblem on the bitumen – in the civic car park outside Leigh town hall.

When he challenged the ticket he was allegedly warned to get his letter of complaint in double-quick because “you are not on your own.”

He claims he was told the council was now expecting a deluge of complaints because “200-plus” other disabled drivers had received a parking ticket for using official disabled bays since the council removed the free-parking concession on March 11. Mr Dawson claims there has been no proper consultation or sufficient warning to Blue Badge holders of the changes. And that is despite the fact that town hall chiefs could have incorporated details in a circular they sent to holders such as the Dawsons warning that Blue Badge renewals would now cost £10, less than a month and half earlier.

Determined Mr Dawson – whose wife Barbara is registered disabled after a road smash eight years ago – is now pledging to challenge the ticket right the way up to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary on behalf of the disabled driver community.

He claims the council should have removed the wheelchair logo from the road at the same time as they ended the concession.

Mr Dawson, 61, said: “The Blue Badge concession dates from 1950 and was taken up by virtually all councils. But now the council is trying to make history by becoming the first to make it well and truly meaningless.

“My wife qualified for the Blue Badge eight years ago and it is a real lifeline for us and anybody who has difficulty with mobility because the disabled bays are there for a purpose.

“The council are using a technicality to try and raise a bit of extra money by now charging on these bays as well as trying to make money off the backs of disabled drivers who find themselves being caught out, which I think is totally unacceptable and I won’t let it rest.”

But traffic manager for the council Kevin Hargreaves revealed that Blue Badge holders who have been ticketed in council car parks since March 11 should challenge the penalty “in the usual way” when it will be rescinded. They will then receive information about the changes.

He also insisted the council had given “plenty of advance warning” it was changing rules regarding disabled parking.

Mr Hargreaves said: “Since the proposals were first discussed in 2011, the plans have been covered extensively by local media and we have followed a statutory procedure to introduce the disabled charges, which included formally advertising the proposals on all the car parks and in the local press.”