Picking a place to park can be especially tricky when there are so many varying processes to recognise eligibility for disabled parking and possible concessions for disabled drivers. We asked independent mobility consultant Helen Dolphin MBE to look into what’s happening and advise us on the options when it comes to parking concessions.
The Blue Badge scheme
If you have a Motability Scheme vehicle the likelihood is you will be eligible for a Blue Badge, the nationally recognised on-street parking scheme for disabled people. A Blue Badge allows you to park in marked disabled bays and on double and single yellow lines for up to three hours in the UK (it’s unlimited time in Scotland). It also allows you to park free of charge on the street where others must pay. Although this is a UK-wide scheme the rules are different in central London, where you cannot park on any yellow lines and designated Blue Badge parking isn’t always free to use either. To check where you can or cannot park with your Blue Badge, download a copy of the Blue Badge booklet issued by the Department for Transport here.
If you can’t find on-street parking, most car parks use the Blue Badge to determine who is allowed to park in the disabled bays provided. But take note – there is no legal requirement that any concessions are given to disabled badge holders when they park in car parks. This is why it can get really confusing: sometimes parking in car parks is free for badge holders, sometimes there is a concessionary rate and sometimes there is no concession at all.
Even in the same city, car parking concessions can be different for disabled people, as although some car parks will be run by the local authority where it is more likely concessions will be the same across the area, others will be run by private parking operators such as NCP and Q-Park. Private car parks may or may not provide concessions and if they do, this can vary from place to place.
Therefore, it’s important to check exactly what the concessions and any charges are for Blue Badge holders when you park your car, to make sure you avoid a penalty/parking charge notice (PCN). You should also check how long you are allowed to park for, as although on street you may park for up to three hours, if a car park says two hours maximum stay then you must not exceed this without making arrangements first with the operator.
Vehicles registered in the ‘disabled’ tax class
In most cases, when deciding who would be eligible for concessionary parking the Blue Badge is used, but in the past some councils instead gave concessions only to people whose tax disc showed that their vehicle was in the ‘disabled’ tax class. However, when the DVLA decided that they would no longer be issuing tax discs, as they would keep an electronic record of a vehicles tax status instead, it meant that those councils had to come up with new policies to determine who would be eligible for concessionary parking.
Having previously used the tax disc to determine eligibility for concessionary parking, Cornwall Council has now come up with a new policy. They require all Blue Badge holders who have a vehicle in the ‘disabled’ tax class to register for the Cornish Council exemption scheme. Motorists, who don’t need to be Cornish residents, can apply by filling in an application form, paying £10/year and sending in a copy of the vehicle’s V5c Registration Certificate (log book).
Other councils who have devised similar policies to Cornwall are Borough of Poole and Bournemouth Council, where Blue Badge holders qualify for concessionary parking only if they have a vehicle in the ‘disabled’ tax class. Applicants must send in a copy of their V5c document and pay the appropriate fee.
There are other councils in the south of England including Christchurch and East Dorset, Horsham& and Torbay who also require special permits to be applied for to allow Blue Badge holders free parking in council run car parks. However, in these areas there is no need to own a vehicle as permits will be issued to people who receive either Higher Rate Mobility Component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Enhanced Rate Mobility Component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement (WPMS). In West Dorset permits are also issued to those in receipt of low and high rate attendance allowance.
Although it seems that most councils issuing special permits for free parking are based in the south of England it is always worth checking the website of the council where you live or where you plan to visit to see if there are any special requirements to enable you to park free of charge. In some cases the application fee may outweigh the benefit of applying but where there is no charge to apply, you could save yourself some parking fees.
Check with the relevant parking provider
The best advice is contact your local authority to find out what parking concessions they may offer and processes they have in place to identify eligibility. If you have a query about a particular car park, speak to the local authority or private operator responsible for that facility, in advance.