Disabled people have slammed highways chiefs after learning that drivers are enjoying a parking free-for-all on blue badge bays.
Signs near eight bays on Gage Street in Lancaster city centre say they are for “Disabled badge holders only”.
But when a Lancaster Guardian photographer visited the bays, which do not attract a parking charge, he found that they were occupied by drivers without blue badges.
Lancashire County Council has admitted that since April 2011 it has told traffic wardens not to carry out enforcement on the Gage Street bays.
It says their markings are “too faded” to enforce but has decided against re-painting them until Lancaster City Council has decided upon possible changes to disabled parking provision as part of its Square Routes project.
Under the scheme, which aims to improve pedestrianised areas of the city centre, three designated bays behind Lancaster City Museum and four non-designated bays in Market Square could be lost.
One elderly blue badge holder, who flagged up the issue, said he had been unable to park in the Gage Street bays on several occasions.
“I complained to a traffic warden but he said they had been told not to book the cars,” said the man.
“It’s absolutely stupid – these people are parking there all day for free while us blue badge holders are struggling.
“There’s not enough parking provision for blue badge holders in Lancaster as it is and then you can’t park in the spaces there are.”
Graeme Ellis, who works at One Voice Disability Services in Lancaster, said he was concerned about the non-enforcement of the bays. Mr Ellis, 54, of Bath Mill, is registered blind and suffers from neurological problems.
“We had a reduction in disabled parking a couple of years ago when they turned bays on Common Garden Street into a taxi rank,” he said.
“Bays on Church Street which you used to need an additional permit for are also no longer being enforced.
“People were even more reliant on the Gage Street spaces because they are near to the chemist so people could park and pick up medicine.
“There have been roadworks so the council has had the chance to re-paint those bays, it’s not a big job. Nothing is happening with Square Routes at the moment.”
Mr Ellis added that the county council seemed to be trying to reduce disabled parking spaces “by stealth” and vowed to take up the issue with the authority in his role as chairman of the North Lancashire Physical Disability Partnership Board.
Anyone wishing to submit evidence about the problem as part of Mr Ellis’ representation can contact him at email@example.com.
Ian Welsby, County Hall’s Lancaster highways manager, said it had not wanted to pay to re-paint the bays now only to have to change them due to alterations to disabled parking provision under the Square Routes scheme, which he said would provide the same amount of disabled parking on the edge of the city centre.
He said: “I’m sorry for any inconvenience caused during this development period, but even without Gage Street there is good provision for disabled parking across the city, and drivers with blue badges can, where appropriate, park legally on double yellow lines for up to three hours.”