FAMILY members of an elderly and disabled woman have hit out at councils for 'invisible' road signs in Cirencester Market Place after they were slapped with a parking fine.
Janice Cole, daughter of 85-year-old Cirencester resident Mavis Sowter, said there were no lines or visible signs to suggest that blue badge parking was prohibited in the town centre.
Mrs Cole was shopping with her disabled mother on Thursday, March 23 and parked outside House of Fraser at 11.26am, displaying their blue badge as they had done before.
When they returned to their car 10 minutes later, a parking warden was standing by their car.
Mrs Cole said: “My mum wanted to go to House of Fraser. We haven’t been able to get into town properly since they were digging it up so it was the first time in months since we were able to go into town.
“We didn’t see any signage, so we parked there like we had done before with the blue badge. When we came out, the parking attendant was there. My mother was quite upset.
“I went around in a circuit and to see if I did miss a sign. It turns out the sign is facing the wrong way up Dyer Street.”
Mrs Cole and her husband Derek Cole, who live near Malmesbury, argued that the sign indicating that Market Place is a restricted zone is not visible to car drivers turning in from North Way.
The sign’s current position means that car drivers turning out of North Way will have to look up from their passenger side window.
Mrs Cole said she was disappointed that the town centre is now “off limits” to her elderly mother who will not be able to go to the shops or the bank as she cannot walk much.
She said: “The Market Place is fine if you can walk everywhere, but not if you have limited walking abilities and not everybody has a wheelchair. It’s very bad management.”
Mr Cole said they paid the parking fine “under duress” after a failed challenge: “I was so against paying. It wasn’t so much the £35 as much as the principle.
“You would have thought anybody with any common sense would put in blue badge parking.”
“The signage is rubbish. If you came up from Dyer Street the wrong way, you would see the sign, but all the cars come from the Forum Car Park. From that angle, you can’t see the sign clearly.
“If someone has half a brain, they would realise the sign has to be situated opposite the junction. It doesn’t look like they’ve thought about it too much.”
The 'restricted zone' sign as seen from North Way junction turning into Market Place:
Jim Daniels, parking manager at Gloucestershire County Council, said that there were a number of parking options available to blue badge holders in Cirencester town centre, on and off street.
A spokesperson clarified that this included a number of dedicated spaces in the town’s car parks.
Mr Daniels continued: “We follow national regulations on signage and it is the responsibility of blue badge holders to understand the scheme that they sign up to and park legally.
“We’d encourage anyone with concerns about parking matters to contact us directly at email@example.com.”
The county council spokesperson added that there were ‘no loading’ signs throughout the town centre, which also indicated a parking ban.
Town council chief executive officer Andrew Tubb said the town council was previously assured that blue badge holders would still be able to park anywhere within the new restricted zone so long as they were not causing an obstruction.
He said: “I have explained to GCC that this is causing much heartache and is excluding the elderly and disabled from being able to reasonably access the town centre.
“Had at any point the town council been advised that blue badge holders would not be able to park as before we would have asked and advocated for designated bays.”
But the county council denied that highways had ever given the impression that blue badge holders could park anywhere in the Market Place, saying that the town council was informed of all restrictions in place in the town centre.