St Albans city centre road closures reduce spaces for Blue Badge holders

Unused parking spaces in Market Place, St Albans, could be used by disabled drivers.

Unused parking spaces in Market Place, St Albans, could be used by disabled drivers. - Credit: Matt Adams

A Blue Badge holder has condemned the reduction of disabled parking spaces caused by city centre road closures.

John Richards, who is deaf, said he and other Blue Badge holders are concerned about the continuing and possibly permanent closure of Market Place.

This is just one of several city centre streets shut to traffic since the end of the first lockdown, an issue which has divided opinion amongst councillors, traders and residents. 

He explained: "There very few authorised spaces for an ever increasing number of holders, just 10 or so in Waddington Road beside Boots plus three outside Waterstones – seldom free. Yes, we are allowed, with restrictions, to park where single or double lines exist but this closure has removed that central concession completely. It’s a long painful walk to Specsavers as I now know.

"No one appears to have thought out the consequences of closure on less abled visitors/shoppers. The closure of High Street is another matter and has only pushed the traffic north to Drovers Way and Catherine Street.

"Speaking on behalf of my anonymous fellow badge holders, we just want our ‘spaces’ back!  Perhaps make the whole of Market Place a disabled parking only area or restrict entry to badge holders. We can just hope and pray that some common sense prevails."

Unused parking spaces in Market Place, St Albans, could be used by disabled drivers.

Unused parking spaces in Market Place, St Albans, could be used by disabled drivers. - Credit: Matt Adams

Robert Hill, former chair of the St Albans District Access Group, added: "Non-disabled people do not realise, probably because they've never thought about it, that the Blue Badgers are more focused on how close they can get to a particular place than where the BB spaces are located.

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"So for example only the most energetic or desperate would choose to park in one of the designated spaces in Waddington Road in order to walk with considerable difficulty/push or self-propel a chair to George Street. Especially back up the hill!

"The designated spaces in Market Place have always been much appreciated and in great demand because it's flat; easy to get to and away from; no kerbs to negotiate; within a short distance of St Peter's Street, the shopping centres and the Cathedral Quarter. The permanent loss of these spaces would be very regrettable and also prejudicial. I would go as far as to say any decision to permanently remove Blue Badge parking opportunities in Market Place would be a breach of the Equality Act."

Cllr Annie Brewster is calling for both Herts county council (HCC) and St Albans district council (SADC) to work together to prepare detailed, evidenced and funded future schemes that could involve full closure, part-closure, weekend closure or summer closure of all or some of these roads, and to reopen them while this work is carried out.

Disabled parking spaces in Waddington Road, St Albans.

Disabled parking spaces in Waddington Road, St Albans. - Credit: Matt Adams

She said: “As more shoppers return to our city centre following the height of the pandemic, they discover the COVID-19 temporary social distancing road closures in the city centre have meant a large loss of disabled parking.

"Many Blue Badge holders were unaware of a public consultation in the summer as they live outside the 200m radius who received leaflets, so are now speaking up.  Few are aware of the proposed further 18 month road closure trial from January 2022, in three phases, being recommended to SADC public realm committee on December 13.

"Although phases 2 and 3 allow High Street to trial a return to traffic on weekdays only from next summer, the roads that currently permit disabled parking - George Street, Upper Dagnall Street, Spencer Street and Market Place - are proposed to remain closed for the entire 18 months trial. 

"It is vital the committee addresses the issue of people of limited mobility being unable to get close enough to access, not just what they see as vital facilities, but also those everyone else is able to enjoy. 

"Councillors will have to consider many consequences a continued trial will have including traffic congestion and increased emissions in many of our city’s residential streets, the impact on our visitor economy, shops, restaurants and attractions for those put off by displaced traffic and slower journey times and, potentially, reduced response times from our emergency services.

"They will have to decide whether the benefits of pedestrianisation in all or some of these roads outweigh the negatives, and provision for disabled parking must be very high on that list.”

A petition calling for an end to the closures of High Street and George Street has already more than 1,000 signatures.See