Newmarket disabled driver’s outrage at parking fine in town car park

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An 86-year-old disabled driver who was fined for parking in Newmarket, despite displaying her blue badge, said more should have been done to make people aware of the new charges introduced last month.

Cynthia Howell, who has been a blue badge holder for three years, since she had a quadruple heart by-pass, got the ticket when she parked in the Rous Road car park. She said she didn’t realise that Forest Heath District Council had brought in charges for disabled drivers.

Her son, Mark, has written to the council and to local MP Matthew Hancock but said he was angered by the reply which said there had been a 28-day consultation period prior to this change, and a notice placed on all the machines in all Newmarket car parks.

The response also pointed out there had been notices in the Newmarket Journal newspaper and on the West Suffolk Council’s website, along with the change to all the signage.

“The letter suggests that she should continuously comb the council website and noticeboards in case some such major policy change should occur. This suggestion is obviously ludicrous. No one would do that,” said Mr Howell.

He said the council should have written to disabled drivers in the area to make them aware of the changes or it could have waived the first penalty.

“I am sure in my mother’s case and 99 per cent of all such drivers, one notice would suffice. There would be no repetition,” he said.

“Some people will have heard about the changes but there are always going to be others that don’t and the council obviously recognised that because it waived penalties for the first 14 days but that doesn’t help the people who didn’t visit in that time.

“Just because my mother went a few days later, she had to pay a fine.”

However Cllr David Bowman, Forest Heath Council’s cabinet member for operations, said it would have been impossible to inform all disabled drivers and it was up to individuals to check what the charges were.

He said over a two-week interim period warning notices had been issued to blue badge holders not displaying a parking ticket but there would have been some who visited outside that period, so the responsibility had to rest with drivers.