Benches installed at Stoke Station as disabled parking is too far away
BENCHES are to be installed outside a train station to allow disabled people to rest – because blue badge parking bays are to be moved too far away from the entrance.
Work is underway on Stoke-on-Trent City Council's scaled-back 'gateway' project to cut congestion and create a better first impression for visitors leaving Stoke Station.
But a row has broken out between council planners and disability groups over plans to move disabled parking bays more than 30 metres further away from the entrance.
The council wants to remove the two disabled parking spaces and a bus lay-by from Winton Square, directly opposite the entrance, and create four new bays further along Station Road.
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It said removing the bays would help improve the appearance of Winton Square and benches can be used as rest stops for those who struggle to walk.
Stoke-on-Trent District Disability Network claims the new parking bays are too far from the station's entrance and called the offer of benches 'unacceptable'.
Network vice-chairman Pam Bryan, of Weston Coyney, said: "We have asked the council not to move the bays because the new ones are too far away. At the moment there is already only two that are convenient and they are often abused by taxi drivers and other motorists.
"There will be more bays, but if they are too far away they are useless. Putting in benches as resting points is not good enough. It's ludicrous to expect people to stop for a sit down when they are trying to get inside to catch a train."
The council is spending £693,000 on the work, which is due to be completed by March, but has shelved plans to invest £3.4 million on a makeover of the area.
Earlier this year The Sentinel revealed how the University Hospital of North Staffordshire was to spend £60,000 on two golf buggies to transport patients because disabled bays had been installed too far from the entrance.
Councillor Ruth Rosenau, cabinet member for regeneration, planning and transport, said: "We've had a number of issues raised by groups representing the disabled about the relocation of the disabled parking bays. We currently offer two. What we're proposing is moving them further away from theentrance by 30 metres, but we will be providing four bays. These will be better located for enabling our CCTV to monitor usage and allow us to enforce against those non-disabled drivers who abuse the parking facility.
"The increased walking distance is accepted as a compromise but overall we feel the public realm will provide benefits for everyone.
"One of the things we've said we may do to help anyone who's disabled who feels the distance is too far is we'll provide benches."
Selwyn Brown, of North Staffordshire public transport users group Aces, said he was hopeful the scheme would prove successful despite the row.
He added: "The vista as you come out of the station is important. The issue is that every time I read about something positive that is going to happen in Stoke-on-Trent it ends up being not quite what they originally said it would."