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TX: 06.10.03 – NEW CAMPAIGN TO FORCE CENTRAL LONDON BOROUGHS TO ACCEPT THE BLUE BADGE SCHEME

PRESENTER: Liz Barclay


BARCLAY
A disabled parking permit - a blue badge should allow you to park virtually anywhere across the European Union.
However, that's not the case in the vicinity of our own seat of government - the blue badge scheme doesn't apply in the London borough of Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea or the City of London, there are also parts of Camden in which it can't be used.

So you can use a blue badge in the heart of Madrid, Athens, Rome orParis but not in Central London. Sophie Baudier is from the Association for Physically Disabled of France.

BAUDIER
In the centre of Paris the blue badge is operational, it is recognised by our traffic agents and there is no problem for disabled drivers to park. Actually I have talked to our legal direction, to our local office in Paris, and they were very surprised that there was an exception forLondon. So many disabled drivers can't park in the main city of the state which is very shocking.

BARCLAY
Sophie Baudier. Darren Burns is a disabled driver and has a blue badge, he was given a parking ticket recently when he parked on yellow lines in Westminster, something that he could have done elsewhere in the country without a problem. Darren's with us now, Darren how difficult does it make life not being able to park anywhere you need to in London?

BURNS
Well it makes it very difficult because what we tend to do, as disabled people, is avoid those areas, which is obviously not the answer.

BARCLAY
Not the answer but you are campaigning to get Westminster council to change its policy.

BURNS
Absolutely, with a group that I'm working with called PANDA, which stands for Promoting a Non Discriminatory Approach. We're trying to get Westminster council to radically reassess their policy around parking for the disabled so that they can actually look at the bureaucratic nature of the policies that they have because at the end of the day we want to park and shop in Westminster and the West End and why shouldn't we?

BARCLAY
So Brian, councillor Brian Connell is from Westminster council. Mr Connell why does Westminster council not give blue badge holders like Darren the same rights to park as elsewhere in the country?

CONNELL
Oh good afternoon. I mean obviously I understand completely why Mr Burns is distressed about having got a penalty charge for having parked illegally. But the reason that the Central London exemption exists, and as you say it's not just in Westminster, is simply because of the amount of road space we've got relative to the demand. There are we reckon about a quarter of a million blue badge holders in the Greater London area alone and obviously if only a fraction of those people wanted to drive in there simply wouldn't be enough road space for everybody.

BARCLAY
What provision do you make for parking for disabled drivers?

CONNELL
Each of the four boroughs has got slightly different arrangements but for ourselves we've got 12,000 pay and display bays where we allow an extra hour's stay if you're displaying a blue badge, we also have nearly 300 bays reserved for blue badge holders from outside the borough, as well as, of course, having our provision forresidents who are Westminster based and also are blue badge holders.

BARCLAY
But isn't there an argument for looking at things again now that congestion charging has cut the amount of traffic coming into the centre of London and perhaps there could be more scope for disabled blue badge parking?

CONNELL
Yeah and of course we always keep our parking policies underreview. We're particularly keen on looking at our off street operation, we've got 11 off street car parks where we have - and we have disabled spaces in all of those. We're certainly looking to expand the number of blue badge spaces in those locations. We do tend to concentrate our blue badges in areas where we believe disabled people are most likely to need access, obviously the shopping areas are one, as Mr Burns said, but also hospitals and premises like that.

BURNS
But can you tell me what are we as disabled people supposed to do in the interim, while you actually sort these things out, I mean I have in writing from you that by October of next year - not from you, from your council - by October of next year there will be x amount more disabled bays, what are we supposed to do in the interim - are we supposed to stay in our homes until you actually sort out this situation?

CONNELL
No of course not and we'd be very keen to encourage disabled people who want to drive into Central London to plan their trips in advance, both on the westminster.gov.uk website and also on the telephone number that's supplied to everybody who gets a blue badge.

BURNS
But you know as well as I do that this doesn't work because I've got a map and I try and plan ahead but when I do try and plan ahead I come into the West End, I'm a disability consultant and I'm confused by the fact that there are three different colours of badges, several different types of bays, I mean you have to have a degree or a doctorate to even understand the parking system.

BARCLAY
And Mr Connell why when other highly congested UK cities can address this problem - and central Paris, Athens, Madrid and Rome, to name but a few can deal with it - how come London can't?

CONNELL
I mean I think there are differences between some of those capital cities you've just mentioned, which are much smaller and are problems that Westminster as part of the capital of London, London is a much bigger city than any of those other cities. With regard to the planning point that Mr Burns was making earlier on I would just encourage him to take the opportunity to use the nearly 300 that we provide or indeed any of the pay and display bays and obviously pay an amount they'd be able to stay on those bays for longer than normal residents can do.

BARCLAY
And you have said there will be more blue badge spaces - how long?

CONNELL
We're looking at off street stock in particular and we'll look to expand that, it sounds as though Mr Burns has had a commitment from the council, which I'm unaware of, if we're committing to a certain number in a particular timescale. But in the light of congestion charging of course we're keen to do that because we want disabled people to be able to come into Central London, as we welcome everybody to shop and to visit and work.

BARCLAY
Councillor Connell and Darren Burns thank you both.





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