September 1 2014 Latest news:
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
A community group which provides vital transport services for disabled and elderly passengers says it is mystified after being refused a Blue Badge parking permit.
For several years Halesworth Area Community Transport (HACT) has been granted a badge to allow it to park in restricted areas usually reserved for people with disabilities or impaired mobility.
However, the group’s latest application for a permit has been refused on the grounds it no longer meets the correct criteria.
In a letter Suffolk County Council told the group: “Under the Government Blue Badge eligibility criteria that we are required to work within, the regulations state that an organisation will only be issued with a Blue Badge if they both care for and transport disabled people who would themselves be eligible for an individual Blue Badge.
“Unfortunately as your organisation only transports and does not care for disabled people, I regret I am unable to authorise a badge for you.”
Despite an appeal by HACT the decision has been upheld by the council.
The group, which runs the 511 bus service between Holton and Halesworth, says the decision will cause problems for many of its passengers who are unable to walk or travel long distances for medical appointments, shopping, to pay bills, attend community events or visit family and friends.
Julia Howell, HACT administrator, said: “Although our services are open to all members of the community a large percentage of our passengers are elderly or have disabilities. Hence, many of our passengers cannot walk or travel long distances.
“However, without a Blue Badge we are no longer able to park in designated areas meaning we may be forced to drop patients off further away from amenities, which could make life very difficult for them.
“Also, we will now be left having to search for available parking spaces, which is not easy with large vehicles. This could of course cause delays and could result in people missing important appointments.
“We cannot understand why after all these years we are now being refused a permit. It seems a very strange decision to prevent a service providing transport for people with disabilities from parking in spaces reserved for people with disabilities.
“It seems this is another case of red tape making it difficult for a voluntary organisation to provide a valuable service.”
A spokesman for the county council said: “There is another stage of the appeal process and we would welcome Halesworth Area Community Transport submitting to this process with further evidence that supports their application.
“In the meantime there is no reason at all why anyone who has their own personal blue badge cannot make use of it whilst using the mini bus service.”