A row has broken out over the introduction of charges for disabled drivers who park next to Wrexham bus station.
It comes amid claims it would put disabled people off visiting the town centre.
Wrexham Council’s executive board met yesterday to consider whether to bring in fees at a number of dedicated spaces next to the transport hub on King Street.
In a report, the local authority said the bays were currently not subject to a traffic regulation order and therefore open to abuse.
However, Cllr Alun Jenkins said they were popular with users of the town’s shop mobility service located within the bus station, which hires out scooters and wheelchairs to help people access the main shopping areas.
He raised concerns that making disabled motorists pay to park would cause difficulties and lead them to go to elsewhere.
The Liberal Democrat politician said: “The proposal is to remove free disabled parking from the bus station and to make a charge for that.
“I think that is wrong and the consequence is to put the future of shop mobility in doubt.
“If a disabled person has to come into town and pay for parking before paying for the shop mobility service then a lot of disabled people simply won’t come to Wrexham.
“I think we’ve lost a lot of disabled spaces on the streets of Wrexham.
“What I’m going to ask you do to is to hold back on this recommendation to give further consideration to this aspect of it.”
Parking charges have already been introduced for blue badge holders at all council car parks in Wrexham where fees apply.
The authority said the amount charged near the bus station would be in line with other parts of the town centre.
The comments made by Cllr Jenkins sparked anger from council leader Mark Pritchard, who said he had already spoken to the Association of Voluntary Organisations in Wrexham (AVOW) which runs the shop mobility scheme.
He said claims there had been a reduction in disabled parking spaces were inaccurate and demanded an apology.
Cllr Pritchard said: “I can’t sit here any longer and allow you to make statements that we’re reducing disabled parking in this town.
“Anybody who knows me understands that I have a passion to support people with disabilities.
“I’d like you to apologise Alun because I think that’s a personal attack on me and I’m not going to sit here and tolerate it.
“You’re shooting from the hip; you’re saying things that are untrue and it’s wrong.”
The leader of the ruling coalition of independents and Conservatives said he had been contacted by several disabled people who were unhappy with the current parking arrangements at the bus station.
He said they had asked for an order to be introduced to prevent others from parking there without permission.
Continuing his verbal attack on Cllr Jenkins, he added: “I’m really surprised that you mentioned this about the disabilities because I’ll throw this at you.
“When you were lead member of finance, what did you do for car parking in this authority? When you ran this council, what did you do for disabilities?
“Please don’t sit there as I’m not going to take a lecture from yourself about disabilities. It’s offended me, and I’m upset and I’m rather shocked at your comments.”
At the end of the debate, executive board members supported the introduction of the parking charges.
The fees will be brought in from April subject to a statutory consultation period.
By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme)
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