Community transport’s mini-bus has parking fine

DISABLED passengers are being treated ‘worse than delivery drivers’ when they park in Bognor Regis and Chichester according to a community group.

The thousands of individuals who travel with North Bersted-based Sammy Community Transport cannot be dropped off in loading bays in spite of its vehicles’ blue badges.

“The county council gives us a grant for our work, so they recognise the value of what we do, but they are then penalising us for that work,” said Sammy’s community secretary Mike Collins.

“The alternative would be for us to stop taking passengers to certain destinations. We don’t want to do that.”

One of Sammy’s drivers recently fell foul of the law when he used a bay for a 13-seat minibus of passengers with dementia at a tea and chat session in Chichester.

He was fined £70 by a civil enforcement officer, working for the district on behalf of West Sussex County Council. An appeal to get the fine overturned failed.

He said the rules should be changed to allow charities such as Sammy to use loading bays and residents’ private areas.

“We have to be able to park outside the places we are taking people to,” he said. “In this instance, the alternative might have been to park 100 yards away.

“How could our driver keep an eye on a minibus of people with dementia while they walked that distance? The people we help are elderly and disabled and unable to go out without us. But they are being treated worse than a delivery driver with a box of chocolates.”

A booklet issued by the department for transport for blue badge holders states they should not park where a ban on loading or unloading applies with kerb markings, residents’ bays and loading bays. But it says highways authorities can make exceptions.

Mr Collins said some four fines had been issued against the charity in the past five years. But its continued growth – it has 5,000-plus members and 140 groups using its eight minibuses and three cars –meant more could be incurred.

“Paying fines is not what people expect us to be doing with the money they pay us,” he said. “It would be nice if the county council recognised that and the work we are doing.”

A county council spokesman said: “Blue badge holders may not park in loading bays.

“Bays are an important feature which allow local businesses to load and unload their deliveries. If the loading bays are taken up by other motorists then there is a strong likelihood that delivery lorries will cause unwanted congestion while they try and find alternative locations.

“We ask all motorists to keep out of loading bays during the hours of operation to allow vital loading and unloading to take place unhindered.

“We would not be able to provide an exemption for community transport operators to park in loading bays and would suggest they drop off passengers at a safe location before moving their vehicle to a suitable parking place.”