OPINION

Red flags over vital parking bays for blue badge holders

Posted On 10 Aug 2022 at 9:55 pm

Imagine waking up one morning to find that the council had erected a barricade across your front door and you were only permitted to leave your home before 11am or after 7pm.

In effect, this is the result of a proposal to remove the disabled bays in Gardner Street, a busy street in the North Laine area of Brighton.

And removing the bays will have a direct and detrimental impact on disabled visitors, effectively barring them from a street used by thousands of able-bodied people day in day out.

The disabled bays in Gardner Street are very well used, especially as disabled parking bays are somewhat scarce in the centre of Brighton.

The “compensatory offer” of some additional bays in Regent Street will not resolve the issue because they will be a significant distance away for most people who need a blue badge. The criteria are extremely stringent.

And Regent Street is also heavily used and abused by commercial vehicles. Sadly, extra blue badge bays will do little to deter the abuses because disabled bays do not always appear to be enforced with sufficient vigour.

The aim of the blue badge scheme is “to help people with severe mobility problems caused by visible and non-visible (‘hidden’) disabilities to access goods and services by allowing them to park close to their destination”.

That’s what the government says, adding: “The scheme is open to eligible people irrespective of whether they are travelling as a driver or as a passenger.”

The scheme obviously recognises “home” as a key destination – and Brighton and Hove City Council rightly grants requests by residents for an on-street disabled bay outside their home where parking is otherwise extremely difficult or even unavailable.

The blue badge scheme should be considered alongside the Equalities Act 2010 which states: “It is against the law to discriminate against anyone because of their disability.”

It is not the first time that this has been an issue in Gardner Street. An experimental traffic regulation order in July 2020 – during the coronavirus pandemic – closed Gardner Street to all traffic.

It was problematic and discriminatory because access was blocked to the two existing disabled bays which are relied upon by disabled residents and visitors to the area.

This was an added insult on top of the injury caused by the weekend closures of recent years which already created a regular two-day discrimination. The closures remove access for many people every weekend as well as on bank holidays.

Shortly after the experimental traffic order was made, it had to be amended when the council was made aware that blue badge access to the bays was required by disabled residents in the community as well as visitors to this busy and popular area.

One of the disabled bays in Gardner Street in Brighton

The issue came up at the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee last year. The council promised to hold discussions with disability groups and residents.

Regrettably, this did not happen. But in September last year, Possability People and BADGE were invited to a 30-minute consultation meeting with the council’s consultants Mott MacDonald.

At this meeting key concerns were raised. These included the pre-existing weekend removal of access for disabled blue badge holders as well as the many issues around safe access for disabled people to this area and the effect that the full closure had on disabled people.

Discussions focused on making the street less cluttered and ensuring access to all. Use of the existing disabled bays needed to be made safer and protected from illegal misuse.

Examples of misuse included the “sprawl” of café furniture and retail clothing rails as well as bikes and vehicles not displaying a blue badge.

BADGE emphasised the need for full access to be reinstated to this vibrant area which is not just “cultural” but also an area that has been “home” to disabled residents for a number of years.

There was no discussion of removing the existing bays and siting them elsewhere.

The November 2021 report, subsequently presented to the council, contained key findings and recommendations. While our comments as disability stakeholder groups were included, we were not afforded sight of the report until we requested it this week.

The report recommended a review of the blue badge bays in consultation with residents who require access to and from their homes.

The review recommended improving access to these bays, not removing them!

A published report to councillors even said: “Removing the disabled bays would severely impact local residents.”

It is pertinent to emphasise that since November last year, no further invitations have been extended to either disability stakeholder group to discuss the proposals.

So prior to the proposed traffic regulation order (TRO) being published, we were unaware that the council plans to fully close Gardner Street between 11am and 7pm during the week.

The consultant report advised that consultation should take place before further decisions were made.

Gardner Street in Brighton

This proposal will have a direct and detrimental impact on disabled residents. The report recognised that at least one of the bays is essential for a disabled resident.

But the TRO rides roughshod over the residents’ identified needs and their rights to be able to live their lives and come and go – never mind be able to be collected by taxi to attend vital medical appointments.

A daytime 11am to 7pm curfew on blue badge holders is offensive and unacceptable.

The report recommended consulting the emergency services but we are unaware whether the ambulance, fire and police services have indeed been consulted. If this has not taken place, it should be of concern to all who live, work and use Gardner Street.

If the council had upheld the report recommendations and carried out a genuine consultation before pushing ahead with the TRO, these red flags would have come to light.

We always aim to be constructive and adopt a creative and collaborative approach – not least this is in everyone’s best interests. It is also expected under government guidelines to councils as they look to promote active travel, regeneration and economic recovery from the pandemic restrictions.

BADGE co-founder Pippa Hodge

Changes to our infrastructure must be inclusive and work for all – not just some. And they must not contravene the Equalities Act 2010.

The “Accessible City Strategy”, which has been in the pipeline, is clearly desperately needed to uphold the law and our own city’s values such as inclusion.

In the meantime, urgent discussions are needed to prevent this current proposal from festering into fruition.

The way forward for this scheme – and indeed all “liveable” schemes and improvements that aim to improve active and healthy lives as well as supporting the local economy – is to use intelligent discrimination.

This means measures such as enforcement of protected access for disabled people and in this instance, blue badge holders.

It should not mean law-breaking discrimination that will make Gardner Street even more inaccessible for disabled people and have a severely harmful effect on disabled residents.

Changes signposted in September 2020 took away the rights of blue badge holders to park in New Road in Brighton between 2pm and 11pm

Perhaps the stakeholder organisations who have been involved in supporting this TRO are unaware of the detrimental and disproportionate impact that these proposed changes will have.

If we are truly a city that is caring and inclusive, then supporting a proposal that discriminates against one group of people in this way is genuinely shocking. It would make a mockery of the long fight for disability rights.

Lastly, in case anyone is in doubt, disabled people enjoy shopping and eating out too. And we will continue to work with the council to ensure that Gardner Street, Sydney Street and all the other vibrant areas of Brighton and Hove become more – not less – inclusive.

The irony isn’t lost on us that on Thursday 28 July, the council issued an invitation to disabled people living in the city to apply to join two new working groups. It was a “call for your experience to help us make the city more accessible”.

Well, here we are, sharing our experience and flagging up serious issues. We need you listen and address them.

Pippa Hodge is co-founder of BADGE (Brighton Access for Disabled Groups Everywhere).

  1. Nathan Adler Reply

    Speaks volumes that the administration ignored an independent report they commissioned around Gardner Street. I am sorry but this is blatant discrimination

  2. Mike Beasley Reply

    The simple conclusion to be drawn from this is the Council/Greens have , for a long time, had their own agenda which goes against the wishes of ordinary residents/taxpayers. BHCC will ignore the wishes of disabled groups, whilst at the same time, bigging themselves up on how righteous and woke they are. The whole apparatus of the Council is rotten to the core

  3. mad world Reply

    The party that removed disabled parking bays from Maderia Drive. Blocked access to the disabled toilets. Made disable people get out of cars into live traffic and bike lanes in Hove. The lack of thought in any planning for people who don’t use bikes is stunning…

  4. Thomas Gwent Reply

    Go down to the town hall, 2 receptionists, one playing on mobile that he can barely look up from to tell you”you need to phone in l” and a woman who’s a bit more helpful but still coming out with “they are on leave” the whole system is broken!

  5. Sammy Reply

    Brighton and Hove council and Green party administration have a dismissive and indifferent attitude to disabled, infirm and elderly in this city. It is blatantly discriminatory and this us yet another example. They think we are all young, fit, able-bodied people who can walk, and cycle, who do not have children and do not need to use cars. We thought the era of gaslighting and ignoring disabled, infirm and elderly was in the past. Not in this city. Sadly, it is alive and well.

    • John Reply

      “The council promised to hold discussions with disability groups and residents.

      Regrettably, this did not happen”

      A council of able bodied people thought it would be inconvenient to make access for disabled people.

      Time to rise up

  6. Clare Chapman Reply

    BHCC seem to do this all the time. A so called consultation has been carried out for the upper part of The Drive in Hove. They have sent letters out to the residents telling them that two parking bays outside a retirement block will be withdrawn and a cycle locker will be put there in its place. A disabled parking bay that my mother paid for the application for will be moved 150 meters up the road to outside the Drive Prep School!! My mother is a blu badge holder and is a resident of the retirement flats! The upper end of The Drive has three care homes and Homedrive House which is the retirement block. Not a place for a cycle locker. There has been no consultation carried out with the residents of this area!! Just shocking. The Argus and Brighton and Hove News needs to keep on this case with the council.

    • Rob Arbery Reply

      Clare please feel free to contact us at BADGE: badge.brightonhove@gmail.com

    • Pippa Hodge Reply

      Hi Clare, please do contact BADGE. Were the residents made aware of the consultation around that proposal? We feel strongly that the approach used by the council to advertise plans (Traffic Regulation Orders) is flawed l, especially for some sectors of our community. Otherwise these sorts of errors with serious consequences keep happening. It looks like it is a live TRO, in which case you can object and ask the home where your mother lives to also write an objection. You might also like to invite The Carer Centre and Age UK to email the council. It’s TRO-21a-2022 and you will need to quote that in your objection. Here is the link to the live TROs and if you scroll down. You’ll find TRO-21a-2022 and can read the information and you’ll see the link to lodge your objection. But do get in contact and we’ll support you. Best wishes, Pippa (BADGE)

      https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/sites/default/files/2022-07/TRO-21-2022%20Notice%20-%20Bike%20Hangar%20%281%29.pdf

      All objections and other representations relating to the proposed Orders must be made in writing and all objections must specify the grounds on which they are made and should be sent to the Executive Director Economy, Environment & Culture, Brighton & Hove City Council, c/o Parking Design & Implementation, Room G40, Hove Town Hall, Norton Road Hove, BN3 3BQ quoting the TRO reference number shown above or by e-mail to TROcomment@brighton-hove.gov.uk or online (see details above) no later than 29th July 2022. Please ensure you include your full name and address.
      Dated: 8th July 2022
      Executive Director Economy, Environment & Culture Brighton & Hove City Council
      c/o Parking Design & Implementation
      Room G40
      Hove Town Hall
      Norton Road
      Hove BN3 3BQ http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/current-tros

  7. Pippa Hodge Reply

    PS I see this consultation ended on 29th July – but please do send in your objections regardless and state that elderly residents were not consulted or aware of the TRO consultation mechanism. And we will also take this up and ask officers to re-examine their design – but we’ll need more info from you to be able to deal with this quickly.

  8. Pippa Hodge Reply

    If any other Blue Badge holders have been impacted by changes to road lay out, road closures or installation of bike hangars, which has resulted in disabled bays being moved beyond your reach – especially if they were requested by you/relative to enable your daily needs – please do comment here (but don’t disclosure too much personal info) and also you can email us at BADGE.BrightonHove@gmail.com and cc Possability People on your email too (hello@possabilitypeople.org.uk) using the heading “Disabled Bay/s Removed/Re-sited” BADGE members are tired of being made to feel unwelcome and an inconvenience. We are part of the community too and it isn’t acceptable to be pushed out of the way for any scheme if it results in a disproportionate disadvantage due to our disability. That is discrimination and we need to put an end to it.

  9. citizenH Reply

    Your chosen photograph of a cycle delivery courier in a disabled parking bay is misleading. These deliveries take minutes.

    • Pippa Hodge Reply

      Any vehicle of any type using a disabled bay without displaying a valid Blue Badge and time clock in a time limited bay is an abuse of the bay and subject to enforcement. Our experience is that the bays are abused all the time. In this instance the bike was parked and unattended. It wasn’t a ‘delivery’ as such. It’s irrelevant if it’s just 5 minutes – it renders the bay unusable for a disabled person that the scheme is for. There is no mitigation. Not ‘just dropping off’ ‘won’t be long’, grabbing a coffee, on the phone, working nearby or any of the excuses we hear daily. As for this TRO – if you’re not disabled, then try imagining if someone blocked your front door at 11am and didn’t return til 7pm – or parked across your garage (if you have one) or chained their bike to yours and was nowhere to be found (if you have one) and you are trying to get to work or an appointment. Unacceptable, right? But if you don’t have extensive disabilities, at least you can revert to an alternative if this were to happen. A Blue Badge holder doesn’t have that option in most circumstances – many People who rely on wheelchair accessible vehicles will also struggle to get a taxi as they are scarce and many can’t accommodate large chairs/scooters that are needed for the onward journey – hence why they have a Blue Badge in the first place. I just don’t understand why this is so hard to get?

      • SlowFiets Reply

        The photo clearly shows tables and chairs across the road meaning that it was taken on a Saturday or Sunday when the road is completely closed to motor vehicles and the blue badge bay is not active. This photo and your interpretation of abusive bay use *is* misleading.

    • Phoebe Barrera Reply

      Don’t traffic regulations apply to cyclists?

      Apparently disabled bays can only be used for loading or unloading bulky items,
      if there is no sign barring such use, which is unlikely for goods being carried in a cargo bike.

      See https://www.justanswer.com/uk-law/4c1dx-booked-loading-unloading-disabled.html

      But then, as we know, many cyclists seem to think traffic laws, signs, and signals only apply to other road users 😊

      • Harold Reply

        Phoebe, don’t believe everything you see online. You are not permitted to stop or park in a Disabled bay expect if you have a Valid Blue Badge or are exempt such as Police, Fire, Army, Royal Mail etc. If you’re loading bulky items in a disabled bay you are still liable for a PCN.

  10. Ruby Constance Reply

    In one fell swoop they have both managed to combine a curfew for residents if they need a taxi to get out of Gardner Street (for all sorts of reasons) and a curfew for mobility disabled people who need a car to get into it!! How are people supposed to carry their shopping through a busy street, negotiate an incredibly difficult crowded corner -I have tried this is a wheelchair , it’s a nightmare – then go down another street, and then a bit more of a street. And this is supposed to be good provision for disabled parking? Do the council think disabled people don’t shop or maybe we can levitate ourselves and our bags! This is not what a liveable city is, it’s not accessible or inclusive. What dictionary do the council use? This isn’t the way to go. And what is this report and why don’t we know about?..Can you tell us more about it?..And the ‘lived experience’ invite? The line of ‘this making a mockery for the long fight for disability rights’, so many people have spent all of their lives fighting to have the same things as other people…and this what the non-inclusive, non-social justice Brighton Council have decided to do?

  11. Junia Reply

    Being barricaded in your house and not being able to drive a car down one specific street at certain times of the day are *slightly* different, don’t you think?

    What about people for whom the omnipresence of cars everywhere, on almost every single street in the city, all the time, is disabling? Or do disabled people not really matter to BADGE unless they drive?

    • Rob Arbery Reply

      The residents in question have severe mobility issues so yes if they cannot access a car they are effectively under curfew. BADGE only represents the 13.000 city Blue Badge holders, (although we have done campaigning around wider access issues) – that’s its purpose BUT the award winning Possability People who advocate for all types of those with disabilities are also against the proposed TRO. The disabled community is in agreement. Hope that clears things up. The previous TRO allowed Blue Badge access and there really was not an issue.

      • Junia Reply

        Should probably rebrand to Brighton Access for Disabled Drivers Everywhere then, if you have no interest in representing anyone who doesn’t use a car. The current name is extremely misleading to non-drivers who might think they could rely on you for help.

        The previous TRO allows access by *all vehicles* on an incredibly busy shopping street, risking peoples’ safety and meaning the pavements are almost impassable to people using mobility aids because of how busy the street is. But they’re not in cars so who cares, eh?

        • Robert Arbery Reply

          Actually one of the residents does not own a car and does not drive but has a blue badge – so we actually represent blue badge holders if we need to be specific, those with the greatest mobility issues generally. If you are non blue badge holder than a organisation like Possibility People (who oppose the TRO) would be your port of call. I guess the clue is in the groups name BADGE?
          And you are mistaken the previous TRO and signage only permitted Blue badge access up Gardner Street Mon to Friday, (the council were not great at enforcing this so perhaps that is why you have the wrong impression).

        • Pippa Hodge Reply

          We care. That’s why we had a meeting in Sept 2021 about the obstructions and hazards in the area for disabled people and the disabled bays was one of those discussions. It’s all in the article. Blue Badge holders may be the driver or the passenger. The Badge is for the person not the vehicle. BADGE is focused on Access and improving the provision needed by Blue Badge holders which includes parking (stating the obvious) but we also look at the whole journey because when someone leaves the vehicle they may require assistance from either equipment or a support dog or a personal assistant. Possability People are often commissioned to conduct access audits. So the point is that there was opportunity to work out how this area could work safely for everyone. As the article explains, there are disabled residents who live on this street. So whatever arrangements are made, the access to/from their homes must be protected/upheld as to do anything other constitutes a breach of the Equalities Act. Of course it’s difficult with a narrow road, but vehicle access will need to be retained, potentially just for Blue Badge holders – but this will require a creative approach to design and enforcement. Hopefully that’s what will now happen.

  12. JJ Reply

    If you close Gardner Street to all but disabled vehicles or indeed all vehicles. Delivery vans will end up displaced for longer periods of time parked up on pavements or indeed in the current disabled bays in the area. Making extra loading bays does not work as people just park in them as all the traffic wardens are in the suburbs ticketing people for daring to invite friends from out of town.

    Don’t know if anyone in Brighton Council has ever carried heavy boxes but to force delivery drivers to do this for an entire shopping street is outrageous, dumb and dam right selfish. Oh we can have some cafes have some tables in the road… That’s great but from the end of September through to May its cold and rainy so who is going to be sat in the wind tunnel that is the North lanes, no one. Idiot idea, nice 1.

    Please Brighton Council just use some common sense for once.

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