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MELKSHAM’S councillors have turned down an idea that the town council take over the cost and responsibility of some disabled parking spaces in the town, to help those who now have to pay for Blue Badge parking.
From 1st September, Wiltshire Council introduced parking charges for holders of Blue Badges, which are issued to people with disabilities. During last week’s full town council meeting, cllr Sue Mortimer put forward a proposal for Melksham Town Council to lease seven disabled parking spaces in the Church Street car park. The town has a total of 23 disabled parking spaces, which are available in the King Street, Lowbourne and Bath Road car parks.
Leasing the disabled parking spaces would mean Melksham Town Council would control the disabled parking spaces, paying a sum to Wiltshire Council, who are responsible for parking and charges in the town but Melksham councillors said parking is Wiltshire Council’s responsibility and the budget for this should not fall under the town council’s remit.
Melksham mayor cllr Simon Crundell said, “I was angered in the last Wiltshire budget when they announced cutting free parking for disabled people.”
Considering cllr Sue Mortimer’s suggestion of the town council paying to lease some of the disabled parking spaces, cllr Crundell said, “I think it highlights a very important issue, I just don’t know if this is the way to solve it.
“This is an issue entirely of Wiltshire Council’s making – I don’t think we’re in a position to solve it properly.”
In agreement, cllr Jon Hubbard, who is both a town and Wiltshire councillor said, “This is an emotive issue and no-one wants to be the ones saying they won’t provide disabled parking spaces in the town, but this is not our duty to provide parking spaces for people. It is not a town council responsibility.
“The challenge is that we have a proposal before us to fund seven of the 11 spaces on Church Street car park. Straight away I think that’s a recipe for disaster. You either have to do all 11 or none at all. You have the same argument in the other car parks and you are talking about £7,500 a year to be able to fund that and for the number of people who will be impacted by this spend, we would not be getting a return on that investment that we could justify to our electorate.”
‘Consider needs of disabled drivers when meters are updated’
Melksham councillors though are pressing Wiltshire Council to consider the needs of disabled users when updating their car parking meters.
It follows reports of problems caused for disabled people having to physically get to parking machines to buy a ticket, when the machines are often in a different part of the car park from disabled parking bays.
Councillors heard that there are plans by Wiltshire Council to update the car park payment machines, using newer technology.
Cllr Jon Hubbard said, “I’d like to note that the council writes to Wiltshire Council and requests that as part of the council’s strategy on the implementation of new parking meters in Wiltshire’s car parks, due consideration is given to the location of disabled parking places, the location of payment machines, and the accessibility in order to minimise the challenges for disabled users… as a matter of some urgency.”
It was agreed to make this recommendation to Wiltshire Council.