Closure of Regent Centre which deals with Blue Badges

A member raised the issue of the closure of the Regent Centre that deals with parking issues including blue badges so STAND asked what was happening so members could still get their blue badges.

The intention is that Parking Services will relocate, with the majority of staff continuing to deliver services from home (ordering blue badges, answering telephones, responding to penalty correspondence etc).  Staff will work on a rota in the office to open post/scan it into the computer and to print permits and letters for posting.  Blue Badges are now ordered online from the staff working from home (through the government website) and are posted to applicants homes directly.

Face to Face services going forward will be provided from the local centres and libraries.  The web pages are being updated so that applying for residents permits and appealing parking penalties can be done through a web form rather than an email.

Blue Badges:

They dropped the paper application form for blue badges approximately 4 years ago, with applications now being made directly through the government website or over the telephone with the call centre.  Supporting documentation can be posted in the post box outside the Regent Centre at the moment, or photographed with a smart phone or scanned in the normal way.

Parking Permits:

Parking permits are applied for either by email or by the post box outside the Regent Centre (the new permit request form will be live on the councils website shortly)

Parking Penalties:

Appeal forms/letters can be emailed or posted in the post box outside the Regent Centre.

 Staff are still available to answer queries over the telephone: 01782 237999

Once they have moved from the Regent Centre, they will let us know.

They have continued to process all blue badge applications, permit applications and penalty disputes throughout the Pandemic in a timely manner.  They have had many compliments about how quick and easy the service has been.  Many customers pleased they no longer have to travel to one office – in Hanley to access services.  Going forward residents will be able to go into their local library or local centre if they want to access services face to face or they do not have a computer to access this service from home.

Pall Mall Car Park

Members had complained about the lack of access to the town centre sue to the closure of this car park, which was predominantly for blue badge holders. This car park had been used as a builders yard while the work was been done in Hanley Town Centre. We have been told that this is almost completed and the car park will be returned to it’s normal function by the end of August.

Communication and Consultations with Stoke City Council

STAND was concerned that the quality of communication and consultation was slipping so we contacted the Director and a meeting was set up. The results of this meeting are beginning to show positive results. We have contributed comments on The City Plan and others. We have also made our feelings known about the negative impact closing public toilets have had both on people with disabilities, elderly people and on footfall in town centres.

Shopping Trolleys at Iceland

A STAND member was concerned at not being able to get a wheelchair compatible shopping trolley at Iceland so STAND contacted their Customer service, they apologised am promised to make sure all stores had these and were available when needed.

New Disabled Parking Bays in Longton Park

A wheelchair user member complained that she could not park safely to go into Longton Park so we asked the Council for some blue badge bays inside the park. The Council has kindly put two bays inside the park gates at the top entrance, the one nearest to Cocknage.

STAND thanks the Council for making this happen.

Parking Standards for Blue Badge holders

STAND was asked to advise the Council on new parking standards.

Our Report Below

Re the new standards for parking.

People with disabilities need to park as close as possible to where they need to visit in order to gain access to goods and service. A right enshrined  in the 2010 Equality Act. EA

In order to qualify for a blue badge the person should not be able to walk more than 50 metres without considerable pain and or distress so the location of bays need to mindful  of this fact.

The following recommendations are based on:

The percentage of people with blue badges in Stoke-on-Trent

Just under 4% (2019 population figures)

The rise in numbers of blue badges due to the change of criteria in Aug 2019 (Hidden       disabilities)

There were 240 extra people who received a badge under the new criteria from 30th Aug 2019    (2019/2020) so for a full year without coronavirus, is likely to be much higher.

Dept of Transport Recommendations April 1995 ie before the change in criteria

British Parking Association Recommendations for bay size 2016, again pre new criteria.

Effects of long covid increasing the number of disabled people.

Demographics in Stoke point to an increasing number of older people which in turn will mean       more disabled bays will be needed.

 

Commercial Developments

An employer, tenant or service provider is subject to certain obligations under the Equality Act to ensure people with disabilities can access the premises and the services provided.

The number of Blue badge bays will often depend on the use of the development and the size of the car park. British Standard Institute BSI (pre criteria change) says there should be one bay for each disabled worker plus 5% for a car park with up to 200 bays. We would suggest that as a minimum this should now be BSI  plus 10% but would need to be considerably higher than this in developments which rely on visiting clients, eg. supermarkets, DIY stores, supported living developments. In some cases 100% of the parking would need to be blue badge bays eg. Smithfield, in order to comply with the Equality Act.

The size of the car park will make a difference to the percentage of disabled bays, for example in a very small car park with less than 50 spaces, we suggest at least BSI plus 4 disabled bays.

50 – 200 BSI plus 10% of total spaces

Over 200, 15% of total spaces.

Over 500, 10% of total spaces.

 

 

Business Use

BSI standards plus 10%

 

 

City Council off Road Car Parks

We suggest a minimum of 10% but will be dependent on location and likelihood of use. eg a car park on a hill would be unlikely to be used by many people with physical disabilities, but may be used by people with hidden disabilities. A car park in the town centre (eg near the Regent Theatre) may be used much more. Many towns and cities have car parks in the centre of town with 100% of bays for blue badge parking, which is a very important consideration when areas are pedestrianised if the rights of access are to be preserved. People with disabilities have a legal right to be able to access goods and services. Any change in policy needs to have an Equality Impact Assessment EIA to find out how the change would affect people with “protected characteristics” EA so that the Council can make “Reasonable adjustments” EA to ensure the rights of access are retained

 

 

Multi Storey Residential

There needs to be a dedicated disabled bay with a hatched area at the side of the bay for each flat built capable of housing a person with a disability and located within 50 metres of the entrance. It is quite obvious that a disabled person would not be able to access a flat without dedicated parking. Properties that do not have such parking could be guilty of discriminating against people with disabilities because they are unable to access the property unless they have such parking. (Equality Act 2010) There is also a need to provide adequate accessible parking for any visitors with a disability.

It is vital that attention is given to the number and location of disabled spaces in the planning stage of a development. STAND has been involved in many cases where costly mistakes have been made causing huge problems for tenants, neighbours, property owners, and the Council.

 

Red Routes

Red routes often replace double yellow lines where blue badge holders have the right to park in order to access goods and services. It is important that these rights are respected and sufficient accessible parking spaces are incorporated into the red routes. Again these would require an EIA to ensure legal rights are retained.

 

Size and Design of Disabled Bays in off Street Parking

Blue badge bays need to be safe and designed so that drivers and passengers can get in and out of the vehicle easily as well as safely. They need to be big enough to allow for the person with a disability to get out of the side or back of the vehicle and into a wheelchair or electric scooter if needed.. Many crutch or stick users need to have the car door fully open in order to get in and out of the car. Cross hatching space at the side of the bay needs to allow for this.

There are rules governing the size, design and placement of bays, (Dept For Transport Parking for Disabled People 1995) but these should be considered a basic minimum as many specially adapted vehicles for people with disabilities are a van size, SUV or MPV size to accommodate their wheelchairs/electric scooters and ramps. Many of these vehicles are now a bigger size than when the rules were first written. Some specially adapted vehicles need enough space behind the vehicle to allow for ramps to be deployed for those people who travel in their electric scooter or wheelchair.

 

Location of Bays

Ideally these should be within 50 metres from the entrance to a main building (see blue badge criteria) They need to be located in safe places, ideally on the ground floor, as close to the main entrance as possible.

The smaller bays with cross hatching on one side of the vehicle should be placed closer to the entrance than the bigger bays, with cross hatching on both sides as the bigger bays are more likely to be used by bigger vehicles with wheelchairs or electric scooters. The smaller ones are more likely to be used by people with heart and lung problems, (hidden disabilities which affect their ability to walk) and crutch or stick users who cannot travel distances over 50 metres without severe pain and distress, but the spaces need to be wide enough for the car/ van door to be fully open to allow entrance and egress without hitting the vehicle parked alongside.

 

Conclusion

The STAND recommendations are made with consideration for the future needs of people with disabilities in the City and the Council’s need to fulfil its’ duties. If there is a need for discussion about the recommendations STAND would be happy to meet via Zoom to explain further.

 

Corona Virus Information

Throughout the pandemic STAND has been working to try to make things easier for our members by sharing information, help. etc. We are still unsure when it will be safe to have face to face meetings but will continue with our Zoom meetings. We are concerned that roughly half our members do not have a computer and therefore cannot join us. We could not send out letters by post as the costs were too high when we were unable to raise funds so we decided that all members will receive a letter notifying them of the AGM on October 12th 2021. We are looking into the possibility of using a blended scheme where those who want to go to a meeting could do so with those preferring Zoom could still join in on their computers. A lot will depend on the state of the virus, cost of hiring the room and numbers of people interested.

Hospital parking free for disabled people from April 2020

The Government have told hospitals not to charge disabled people to park from April 2020.

See full details by typing this in to your computer.

http://www.gov.uk/government/news/free-hospital-parking-for-thousands-of-patients-staff-and-carers

From February 2021 Royal Stoke has started free parking for disabled blue badge holders. This had been delayed due to Coronavirus but it active from Feb. 2021. You need to register your badge and registration number at the parking office on the ground floor of the multi storey car park. It takes 24 hours before it is loaded onto the software but you can still get free parking by showing your badge to the person at the barrier to the car park or by calling for help by using the button at the side of the barrier. STAND has been campaigning for the return of free parking since the hospital started charging. Our sincere thanks go to our MPs, Jack Brereton has worked very hard on our behalf and to the hospital staff for ensuring this happened even though they were so busy with the pandemic.

Blue badge bays used for charging electric cars

Our local paper, The Sentinel, published an article on charging points for electric cars which shows that some charging points are using disabled bays and turning them into dual purpose bays. STAND is very much against this move as it is unfair to both disabled people and electric car owners.

Please contact STAND if you see this happening locally.