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Disabled woman fined for parking in accessible bay

Cerys Gemma in her car
Cerys Gemma in her car Image credit: bbc.co.uk

A blue badge holder is facing a £1,000 fine after she parked in an accessible space outside her house in Cardiff Bay.

Cerys Gemma, 34, said despite having her own bay it is not accessible for her because there is a pillar on one side and a car parked close on the other side, so she is using a disabled space which is reserved for visitors.

She has now been ordered to pay a £1,000 fine by the County Court.

It is believed Gemma’s own space in Prospect Place was being used by a friend whilst she was parking in the visitor bay.

But the company which overlooks the spaces, New Generation Parking Management, say the bays must be reserved for visitors and not residents.

The firm manages the car parking spaces on behalf of management company Ringley Group which state visitor spaces operate on a “first-come-first-served” system provided each vehicle is pre-booked.

They stated a friend of Ms Gemma had been using her bay whilst she had been “attempting on a continuous basis” to park in a visitor’s space, but they are trying to find a solution to the situation which could resolve in a “space swap”.

Gemma said: "This has plagued me for two years and I just can't go on like this.

"I'm at breaking point and I've had conversations with people, and I've said this is the end, because I can't do this any more - something has to change.

"I'm not willing to be pushed out of my home because I'm in a wheelchair,"

She has been using a wheelchair since the age of 17 after being involved in a serious car accident which left her with spinal injuries.

"It's hard enough anyway, and I try and be as graceful and patient with people who don't have accessible buildings, and I understand that it's hard, but I'm not being pushed out of my home because of a parking space when they've got eight accessible bays," Gemma added.

Disability rights lawyer Chris Fry, from legal firm Scott Montcrieff & Associates said: "The reality is that if the space allocated to her is inaccessible to her because of her disability, then they're under obligation to make a reasonable adjustment, to maybe move that space or change it to a closer spot to the front door.

"If they don't, they're in breach of the Equality Act."

A breach of the act could see the company being fined for over £1,000.

New Generation Parking Management said: "We want to make clear, if we allow one resident to utilise a disabled visitor space as their own, we would need to allow all requests from residents, which we have received over the years.

"This would no doubt reduce the availability of disabled spaces for disabled visitors."

But Fry believes the company may have misunderstood the Equality Act

"That sounds like a typical misinterpretation of what equality means, it doesn't mean applying the same policy to everybody - equality means providing the same opportunity for outcomes,” he said.

"There is no disadvantage to them changing their policy, and prioritising, in fact legally, prioritising disabled people above other people is legal.

"It is within their gift to cancel those fines, that should be the first step they should take in terms of trying to rebuild the relationship.”

New Generation Parking Management stated they were abiding to rules which was agreed by Prospect Place when they started managing the site.

It said: "We cannot make changes to these rules unless agreed by the board of directors, therefore in light of the continued distress that this is causing Ms Gemma we will take steps to ensure this is discussed at the next board meeting".

Ringley Group said Gemma was taken to court by New Generation Parking Management and they did not raise the case themselves.

In a statement Ringley Group said: "The lady in question has one car parking space that comes with a relative's apartment, but we understand from NGP that use of the parking space that comes with the apartment is currently being used by a friend.

"This means that she has been attempting on a continuous basis to park an additional car on-site in a visitor space, despite already having been allocated one resident's car parking space.

"Residents' car parking spaces form part of the leasehold agreement and are not allocated by Ringley."

They added: "One solution is for her to return her space back to the freeholder and then to sit down with the site team and identify spaces that might be suitable for her and for us to arrange a space swap with another owner.

"There is a short supply of visitor spaces, which are for use for all, which is why we cannot provide her permanent use of a disabled visitor parking space."

Chris Fry is recognised as the leading Disability Rights Lawyer of his generation.