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Borehamwood residents left angry over West Herts NHS Hospitals Trust to scrap free disabled parking
Disabled people will be forced to pay extra when plans to scrap free parking at Watford General Hospital come into force.
From April, blue badge holders will have to pay the same £4 minimum parking charge as other visitors to West Hertforshire NHS Hospital Trust sites in Watford, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead.
Disabled wheelchair user Margo Milne, of Cranes Way, Borehamwood, has branded the plans a “very bad idea”.
The 50-year-old has multiple sclerosis and drives to hospital appointments every six weeks.
She said: “Being disabled is expensive as it is and we have enough problems without having to worry about paying for parking.
“To make disabled people pay for parking in a hospital of all places does seem very unfair.
“I suppose I can understand where the trust is coming from, but they need to think about those with long term disabilities.
“My biggest worry is hospital regulars will struggle to get to appointments if they are worried about the charges.
“That will have a long term effect on their health. What a bad idea.”
The trust, which makes no profit from car parking tickets or fines, claimed the decision was to promote "fairness and equality".
Paul Simmonds, of Shenley Road, Borehamwood, also uses a wheelchair for a condition similar to multiple sclerosis.
The dad-of-two said: “This is a terrible idea. It will be interesting to find out where the extra money goes though – it should be used for the upkeep of disabled bays.
“But if they are going to do it, they need to make the parking meters more accessible for disabled people, by lowering them so wheelchair users have easy access.
“My biggest worry is that disabled people will not end up actually being able to reach the meters and get slapped with a huge parking ticket, which would be crazy.”
Currently the cheapest parking ticket at the Vicarage Road hospital is £4 for three hours, which drivers have to buy no matter how short their visit.
After that motorists have to pay £6 for five hours or £12 to park all day.
Louise Gaffney, director of strategy and infrastructure, said: "This decision was not made lightly by the trust board.
"It will create fairness and equality for everyone needing to use the hospital car parks. Trust staff with a blue badge are charged for parking on site."
Ms Gaffney said there will still be priority spaces for disabled visitors, discounts for frequently visitors, and free 30-minute bays.
She added: "Many other NHS Trusts and local authorities charge blue badge holders to use car parking facilities."