Calls for more blue badge spaces in Portsmouth after 'hidden disabilities' rule change

MORE blue badge spaces in the city are needed to meet rising demand, a campaigner has said, after a national change to make people with 'hidden disabilities' eligible was passed.

Currently Portsmouth has 1,918 disabled parking bays - just 28 per cent of the 6,857 residents who hold blue badges.

And this difference could become greater with the extension of the blue badge scheme announced on Friday, which will include hidden disabilities such as autism and mental health conditions.

Blind Fareham resident Madeline Close explained how she and the person driving her ‘often’ struggle to find a space. The trustee of Disability Rights UK said: 'Usually if you have 100 spaces in a car park only a small number will be blue badge spaces. Very often you won't be able to find a space. What happens then is you have to go somewhere else.

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'It depends on the disability but for some people the size of the space is more important and for others it's about being close to the shop or wherever you're going.

'We have also got an ageing population and with this change we will have more blue badge holders, therefore, more spaces are needed.'

Previously permits were issued for people who are registered blind or have mobility difficulties.

The scheme's eligibility criteria in England has been expanded by the Department for Transport (DfT) to include people who cannot walk without considerable psychological distress or risking serious harm. Picture:Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Su Seymour, an autism ambassador from Gosport, said: 'If I'm in a shop and there's too much noise or I'm feeling crowded I need to be able to get out and get to my car quickly.

'If your car is really far away you might end up wandering through traffic. For families with children who have autism this will make a big difference.

'It could also encourage people to go out if they're not worrying about finding a space.'

A council spokesman commented: 'We are not aware of any problem with our current provision of disabled parking spaces being insufficient.

'The number of new blue badges that will be issued is at this stage unknown, we will of course monitor the provision of disabled spaces in Portsmouth and if required will look to introducing additional ones.'

Applications for blue badges can be done via the council's website, phone, email or by writing to the civic offices.