12:00 - 21 April 2003

Controversial plans to introduce disabled parking charges have gone ahead despite concerns by police. Although having no objection in principle, the police say they fear the move could lead to more on-street parking, causing an increase in traffic hazards and congestion.

The proposals were approved last month as part of a package of savings across council budgets totalling more than £14 million.

The charge of 80p for an hour for off-street parking and a flat rate of £1 thereafter for off-street parking is expected to generate more than £60,000 for the council in the coming year.

A total of 24 objections were received before the advertised period for comments expired.

While most opposed the charge, some did not but had other concerns including the location and height of ticket machines.

Some objectors, including the police, expressed concern that it would push motorists into parking on the street.

The council, however, argued that on-street parking was generally full already, with a maximum three-hour stay.

Council leader Kevin Wigens said: "It was a measure we were reluctant to take, but given the stark choices facing us due to Government under-funding it was one of the options we had to implement.

"It only brings us into line with many other authorities, and compared to others it's still a generous scheme."

Cllr Wigens added; "We don't consider it will lead to an increase in on-street parking.

"There are only certain areas where disabled parking is allowed, and if it's full, it's full.

"On balance, given the fairly low level of objections, I think people understand the situation we are in, and that it remains a fairly generous scheme."

But Labour group leader Tudor Evans said: "Of all the things the Tories have done over the last three years, this one has got to rank as among the most mean and nasty. Clearly they aren't listening to what local people are saying to them.

"Charging the disabled to park while the council is still giving a huge subsidy to the Chamber of Commerce just shows the extraordinary priorities of this Tory council.

"Why can the chamber park for free, while the disabled can't? Why are staff being charged to park?"

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