Sunday, 22 July 2018

Disabled drivers protest at threat to parking bay

DISABLED drivers have criticised plans to remove a space in Henley town centre reserved for them.

DISABLED drivers have criticised plans to remove a space in Henley town centre reserved for them.

The bay in Hart Street could be turned into a space for drivers with a residents’ permit after the town council’s parking supervisor Norman Hill said it was hardly being used.

The council is due to vote on the issue on Tuesday.

Sheila Carruthers, a blue badge holder who travels to Henley from Wargrave up to twice a week, said the reason the space outside the Catherine Wheel pub wasn’t used much was because it was difficult to access.

“It’s awful trying to fight your way through the traffic just to get in,” she said. “When you leave you’ve got to fight your way out again across the cars coming the other way. I’m always looking for a parking space but I always look for somewhere else first because it’s so awful.”

Mrs Carruthers, who has had her hips replaced, and her husband Tony both have difficulty walking very far.

She said she usually parked in the disabled bays outside WH Smith in Bell Street or in King’s Road car park as the three disabled spaces in New Street were usually occupied.

Ms Carruthers said: “I would like to see the council leave the Hart Street space as it is because while the access is bad, it’s better than nothing.

“If I come into Henley and there’s a space I will consider it but I’ve got to be desperate to use it and might have to go round the block first.”

Julie Maxx, whose 14-year-old son Tyler suffers from cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, said there weren’t enough parking spaces for blue badge holders.

She uses the disabled bays in Greys Road car park but said she had caught able- bodied drivers using them and received abuse when she asked them to move. Ms Maxx, of Gainsborough Crescent, Henley, said she wouldn’t choose to use the space in Hart Street because of the amount of traffic.

But she added: “If it’s for someone who can’t walk very far and needs to be closer to the centre of town then it should stay.

“The council should make it perfectly clear where disabled people can park because not everyone is aware that if you have a disabled badge you can park in certain places.”

John Grantham, 71, uses a disabled parking space in New Street, where he lives, but said more are needed for visitors to Henley.

He said: “If you had to spend your life in a wheelchair, which I have to do, one would think twice about removing disabled parking bays. All the ones in New Street are used by people who have serious disabilities but you need an extra one or two additional bays in the middle of Henley for other people to use.”

Mr Grantham said he would like to see the space in Hart Street either left untouched or moved.

He said: “Perhaps it is in the wrong place and needs to be put in Bell Street or somewhere where it will be better used.”

In a letter to this week’s Standard, Patrick Quick says he is “horrified” at the council’s proposal.

“On-street disabled parking in Henley is already practically non-existent,” he says.

“There are certainly bays in the car parks, which are usually very well used. However, they are not in close proximity to the shops and restaurants and disabled people have a fair way to walk as it is.”

Brian Connolly, honorary secretary of South Oxfordshire Mencap Society, says members of the Meteor Club regularly meet at the Catherine Wheel for social outings and use the disabled bay.

He said: “On these occasions it is imperative that the specially adapted bus is able to park immediately outside the pub so the hydraulic lift which allows wheelchairs to be raised and lowered can be utilised. Removal of this space would mean using the nearest alternative in Greys Road car park, which would cause difficulty, particularly in inclement weather.”

Town clerk Mike Kennedy said he felt the proposal had been “misunderstood”.

He said: “A space that’s designated specifically for disabled permit holders can only be used by the blue badge holder. A blue badge holder also has the ability to park in many other places that residents with an ordinary permit can’t.

“All we’re doing is reclassifying a parking space that’s specifically only for disabled drivers to make it available for permit holder. We believe it is surplus because it’s always empty.”

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