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5 August 2013

BLUE BADGE - THE YELLOW BOX PARIAHS





Michelle Daly photo - Warrior Mums

Sometimes the pettiest things can turn out to be the biggest headaches that take more than a painkiller to fix. I went shopping a couple of months ago with Marie. It was a scorching day and we'd just come off the motorway after dropping my daughter off in Manchester. I tend to go to large supermarket car parks rather than Council run because there is usually plenty of room for everybody - and no stress about parking meters makes for a nice friendly atmosphere. However, I rarely take up a disabled parking space because I am not very good at reversing and reversing I would need to do so I could stand on the kerb to safely lift my daughter's somewhat heavy wheelchair out of the boot. If I drive straight into the space I would be standing on the main lane in the way of passing traffic and causing obstruction.

On this particular day, however, I decided to park in the least used area of the shopping park, where it is shaded and there is a no through road and not much foot-fall. My priority was getting Marie out of the car because excess heat can bring on an epileptic fit. There was no panic, but her needs were the focus of my attention.

I parked in the first space I came to which was a yellow box. I smiled to myself at how convenient it was and switched off the engine. There was another yellow box beside me, then 6 ordinary spaces with 2 yellow boxes at the other end and they were all empty. With hardly any passing traffic I lifted Marie's wheelchair out of the boot and pushed it around to the passenger side where I gripped her hands to stand her up and helped her transfer to wheelchair. Then I got the tray out of the boot and clicked it onto her wheelchair. Next I got the foot rests and clicked them onto the sides before slotting them into place and maneuvering Marie's feet onto each one. Then I wheeld her onto the pavement, put on her brakes and left her for a second as I hurried to close the boot, get my bag, check all windows are closed and then off we went. Sometimes it's a lot to think about and it could be on a day when I'm feeling a bit tired myself, which was another reason for using these types of car parks. 

We enjoyed the cool breeze after being in the stuffy car and went into the first shop we came to, which was a pet shop. We must have been in there for an hour but I have to say Marie was more interested in the variety of chocolate cat and dog treats than most of the pets, although she did love the bunny rabbits.

When we arrived back at the car it was to find a parking ticket for £60 for parking in a yellow box. It had not even occurred to me to display the Blue Badge. There was no sign requesting it be displayed and being in a car park with 2,000 free spaces had given me a false sense of security. It was the first time I had ever received a parking ticket and I kicked myself.
I had two weeks to pay £60 before it would be increased to £100. It also stated that I could appeal. Their was an online payment address but any other contact had to be through a phone call or writing. 

I know disablity parking spaces are sometimes abused by able-bodied people and I have no tolerance for such selfishness. I believe those people deserve all they get. They have no right to park there - full stop. However, I thought this ticket was very unfair. I searched legal forums on the internet to try and substantiate its validity. What a surprise I got! Most legal advice was to disregard the parking ticket, as it was deemed illegal and cannot be enforced in a private car park, but the thoughts of official looking letters, with scales of justice logos (even if they don't carry any weight) arriving at random on my hall floor, would play on my nerves and I couldn't ignore it. I had to sort it out and put it to bed once and for all.

So I sent a letter of appeal by special delivery to the car park Operators in the Midlands. I also enclosed a copy of the Blue Badge, which proved that Marie was disabled and indeed entitled to use the yellow bay. I knew they would understand and that there was no way they would take money off a disabled person who is entitled to make use of a disabled bay.

Two weeks later I received the following reply.

"We can only address the factual issues of where and how you parked. We will not enter into discussions about the legality of parking on private land or of the landowners right to impose parking conditions on their property. As your appeal has now been rejected for reasons stated, you may now:

1. Pay the Parking Charge Notice within 14 days. Please note that after this time any discounted rate, which may have existed, will not be applicable and the Parking Charge Notice will be £100.

2. Make an appeal to POPLA (Parking on Private Land Appeals) The Independent Appeals Service by completing the form (which they did not enclose) or by making your appeal online at www.popla.org.uk. If you opt to pay the parking charge you will be unable to appeal to POPLA.

3. If you choose to do nothing, we will seek to recover the monies owed to us via our debt recovery procedures and may proceed with Court action against you." 


Now my initial nervousness about getting a ticket turned to anger.

How dare the ticket Operators demand money they are not legally entitled to.

How dare they threaten us with debt recovery and Court action in order to intimidate us into paying.

I have since learned that by rejecting our appeal the Operators have breached the UK disability law.

'EQUALITY ACT 2010 - BREACH OF DISABILITY LAW OCCURRED AS SOON AS THE OPERATOR KNEW ABOUT THE DISABILITY
The Operator is relying on unenforceable terms and conditions on a sign in this car park, which purport to create an inflexible contractual term 'requiring' disabled people to display a Council (on-street only) Blue Badge in order to use a private disabled bay. The Operators seem to be under the erroneous impression that they can 'charge' a disabled person who correctly and legally uses a disabled bay in good faith, just because they may have fallen foul of this arbitrary and unjustified 'requirement'.
'In fact the Blue Badge scheme does not even lawfully apply in private car parks - as is shown in the Blue Badge booklet and on the Government website. Companies may well mention the Badge but on their signs but they cannot rely on it in isolation as the only indicator of disability need. The Equality Act 2010 (the Act) takes precedence over any 'contractual' terms & conditions'.


I appealed to POPLA. who have since acknowledged my appeal and have advised me it will be heard in October.

UPDATE

 
YIPPEE WE WON OUR APPEAL

"The Appellant appealed against liability for the parking charge.
The Assessor has considered the evidence of both parties and has determined that the appeal be allowed.
The Operator should now cancel the parking charge notice forthwith.
"

I was parked in a disabled bay in a retail shopping car park and the reason I won my appeal is because the car park operators broke the disability law. The minute I appealed my ticket proving I was a Blue Badge holder and therefore had every right to park in a yellow bay they should have cancelled ticket but they refused and my case went to POPLA (Parking on Private Land Appeals). 

Disabled people are not pushovers to make money out of in a car park with 2,000 free parking spaces for able-bodied people. 


HOWEVER, I would advise anyone with a Blue Badge to always display it. I know most people do and I ALWAYS do if I'm using a Council run car park, but I mean display it every time you park in a yellow bay. Display that Blue Badge if only to avoid a time consuming and somewhat stressful paper exercise, which to me, has been born out of a refusal to let my daughter and other disabled people be taken advantage of by these money making scammers whose sole revenue, in this particular (2,000 free spaces) car park, is to prey on the Disabled bays and think they can get away with it.....