Tuesday, 01 December 2020

Parking space for disabled to stay in rethink

A PARKING bay in Henley reserved for disabled drivers could remain following a U-turn by councillors.

A PARKING bay in Henley reserved for disabled drivers could remain following a U-turn by councillors.

The town council’s town and community committee had voted in favour of removing the bay outside the Catherine Wheel in Hart Street on the advice of its parking superintendent.

But the decision angered disabled residents and their families who contacted councillors and wrote letters of complaint to the town hall and the Henley Standard.

On Tuesday, the full council rejected the committee’s recommendation without opposition and pledged to think again before making a final decision.

Councillor Pam Phillips, who chairs the committee, admitted members had made a mistake.

She said: “Since the town and community meeting took place, I have had approaches from people who use the disabled parking spot.

“I believe there have been letters sent to the town hall and I personally think we made the wrong decision.

“We have a recommendation here to support the removal of the parking bay and the town clerk says we can take a vote and I hope that it will be lost.”

Councillor Martin Akehurst said: “I have been approached by a number of members of the public over this. We do not have enough disabled parking bays.

“I have had first-hand experience of going around a town trying to find a disabled space to park in — it is not easy.

“Someone said at the last meeting that if you use a blue badge you can park anywhere but that’s not true, you get three hours.”

Councillor Sam Evans said she would be happy to see the issue discussed again and suggested inviting Norman Hill, the council’s parking superintendent, to speak at the committee’s next meeting.

Mr Hill wrote to the Henley Standard defending his recommendation that the bay should be removed because it was under-used.

He said: “Evidence suggests that blue badge holders use the pay and display bays or the resident permit bays on account of the juxtaposition to the traffic lights at the Bell Street junction.

“If a decision is made to return one of the disabled bays back to its original designation then this bay will have dual-use status along with the other 17 bays in Hart Street and can be occupied by blue badge holders without penalty.”

Sheila Carruthers, a blue badge holder who travels to Henley from Wargrave up to twice a week, welcomed the council’s decision to reconsider removing the bay, saying: “I am really pleased.”

She said a better solution would be to move the disabled bays further along Hart Street towards St Mary’s Church to make it easier for disabled drivers to use them.

She said: “People who have problems and blue badges have awful trouble getting in there and it is also the getting out.”

In a letter to this week’s Henley Standard, Sylvia Thomson, of Phyllis Court Drive, Henley, appeals for the council to rethink.

She says: “These bays are invaluable to me as I have a disabled husband who walks with great difficulty and not very far. That is the important thing about the Hart Street bays — they are in the town centre.

“It is a pity some of these councillors aren’t disabled as then they might have an idea of how essential these bays are.”

An anonymous correspondent adds: “The perception that disabled bays in the local car parks are sometimes under-used shows a distinct ignorance as to how difficult and painful every unnecessary step becomes, even when using a walking aid.”

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