Controversial parking charges for Blue Badge holders could be introduced in Preston.
The city council is consulting disabled motorists and residents over its plan to bring in the charges.
The changes would mean that disabled people could park for free for three hours in disabled bays, but after that they would have to pay.
Bosses say the plan would ‘improve availability’ of parking, because there will be a swifter turnover of motorists, freeing the spaces more quickly.
But critics say the council needs to look at the bigger picture and they fear a ‘gradual erosion of parking for disabled people’ affecting hundreds of blue badge holders in Preston.
The council is consulting on two of its city centre car parks – the multi-storey Markets car park and the car park on Hill Street.
The authority says it is also looking at creating more disabled parking bays on the two car parks.
Melanie Close, chief executive of Preston-based Disability Equality North West, said: “There are pros and cons on both sides. I understand where they are coming from with regards to income but they need to think about the biggest picture they need to take this in to account.
“The development that’s happening on Fishergate means we have lost the blue badge spaces by Fishergate Baptist Church.
“We welcome the fact they came and asked us – we are disappointed none of our members’ views were incorporated into the final plan.
“If they keep making little decisions that they say have a minor impact it will lead to the gradual erosion of parking for disabled people around the city.
“They need to make sure they link up all the decisions they are making.
“There is no evidence to show that the majority of spaces are being taken up long-term anyway.”
She added: “The council came to us about a year ago with this proposal. Originally they said there would be no impact, it was suggested they needed to look at that in more detail.
“Their argument with is charging and putting a time limit on, there will be better turnover.
“I don’t know if that is the case. I don’t use a blue badge.
“We put it in our newsletter and they did get some responses from people.”
Meanwhile, one blue badge holder said a system that means all parking provisions across the city were the same would ease confusion.
Wheelchair user Sally Wallace, 42, from Lostock Hall, who is paralysed from the chest down, said: “In an ideal world we would have a disabled scheme for the whole of the Preston area so that every disabled person knows where they stand.
“Whether it be that you could stay for four hours, six hours or all day.
“In Southport you can stay as long as you want so when you get to Southport you know what you can do.
“If you’re going to Preston shopping you’re going to be so confused about what you can do in these car parks.
“If you can’t see the sign you have to get out of the car to go and look at the sign.
“Getting in and out of the car is a big deal.
“I wouldn’t just get out of the car to pick something up if I had dropped something on my drive. I would wait until I got home.
“If you’ve got an optician’s appointment, by the time you have got to get out of the car to push, it could be a good push then you have your eye test, have to pick your glasses and push back, that could be three hours.
“I don’t know all the different car parks in Preston, it’s so confusing.”
The Evening Post asked Preston Council if they had predicted how much revenue the plans would bring in.
But a spokesman said: “It’s about freeing up the spaces, it’s not about revenue, that’s not the reason, it’s not done for that reason so it’s not even something we have contemplated.”
Coun Robert Boswell, cabinet member for environment and community, said: “We are seeking to improve the availability of disabled parking bays during the day on two of the council’s car parks, so that people with disabilities can park as close to the entrances and on the lower car park levels as possible.
“We are proposing free parking for up to three hours in these bays.
“At the same time, with this proposal, we are also looking at creating more disabled parking bays at the car parks for blue badge holders to use.
“We are now consulting on the proposal and would ask people to let us have their views by January 20, so that the council can make a final decision on whether or not to introduce the changes.”
To comment on the plans, write to Angela Harrison, Governance Director, Preston Council, Town Hall, Lancaster Road, Preston, quoting reference DH/LB/15694.