Blue badges: One in 10 abuse disabled parking in Wales

Drivers aged 45 to 55 are the worst offenders

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One in 10 drivers in Wales have admitted they park illegally in spaces set aside for disabled people.

A survey has found as many as one in four in some areas confess to using a spot reserved for blue badge holders.

Gold medal-winning Paralympian cyclist Simon Richardson says he has to time his visits to supermarkets to be sure a disabled parking bay is free.

The 45-year-old wheelchair user says he finds a non-blue badger holder taking up a disabled bay at least once a week.

Start Quote

Simon Richardson

The signs say don't do it, but inevitably people are not bothered”

End Quote Simon Richardson Paralympic cyclist

Mr Richardson, of Porthcawl, in the county of Bridgend, said disabled people had to "structure their life" around finding a bay free.

The survey found Bridgend was worst for parking space abuse, with one in four admitting to misuse.

The survey of more than 1,000 people across Wales found those aged 45-55 were the worst offenders, with one in six saying they had parked in reserved spaces often.

The Welsh government commissioned the survey as part of a crackdown on so-called "space invaders," who either use a blue badge fraudulently or park in a designated space without a blue badge.

Councils across Wales are issued new-style badges that are linked to a new UK database of eligible users, making it easier for police and police and parking wardens to check that the badge is being used legitimately.

The survey found nearly 70% thought it was never justified to park illegally in the bays, although 6% argued that it was acceptable if someone was in a hurry or wanted to stay only a few minutes.

More than a third said the punishment should be clamping or being towed, while only a fifth said a fine of less than £100 is sufficient.

Mr Richardson said: "Blue badges are not patrolled enough. The signs say don't do it, but inevitably people are not bothered.

Baroness Grey-Thompson with the Paralympic torch Tanni Grey-Thompson said abuse of disabled parking bays was a problem

"We have to structure our life around being able to get into a parking bay."

Mr Richardson will light the Paralympic cauldron in Cardiff on Monday and carry the Paralympic torch in London on Wednesday.

But he cannot take part in the Games because he is still recovering from being run down in August 2011 while training for the London Games on the A48 near Bridgend.

His fellow Paralympian, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, herself a blue badge holder, has lent her name to the drive to encourage greater respect for the parking rights of disabled vehicle users.

She said: "Abuse of the system is definitely a problem, and things need to change.

"I think this issue has got worse and gradually the problem has become more widespread over the years. People do cheat the system."

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