NINE drivers were caught in one night as part of a new crackdown on the abuse of disabled parking bays.
A campaign was launched after motorists continually flouted rules at the Lasswade Centre in Bonnyrigg.
Gym-goers who don’t have Blue Badges – which are only given to people who have trouble walking long distances – have been parking in disabled bays before heading inside for their workout.
That prompted police to begin controlling the car park – and officers snared nine drivers on a single evening last Wednesday.
Police said the problem had become so acute that they were forced to act.
Chief Inspector Kenny Simpson said: “It is an offence to park in a disabled parking bay without displaying a disabled badge.
“This has become a significant problem at the Lasswade Centre with disabled people and people with disabled children being unable to park in the designated bays.
“Last Wednesday evening [February 11] police issued nine fixed penalty tickets to people illegally parking in the disabled bays outside the centre.
“Police will continue to monitor parking outside the Lasswade Centre and will issue tickets for any breach of parking regulations, including parking in disabled bays without displaying a Blue Badge.”
One Blue Badge holder, who asked not to be named and who regularly uses the centre, said the problem had been getting worse and that he had been abused after challenging drivers for parking illegally.
He said: “People picking someone up or dropping someone off might be parking for five or ten minutes in the disabled bays, but if you’ve got 15 cars doing the same thing it’s a nightmare for people like me.
“Parking there might save them walking 20 yards, but when you have difficulty walking, like me, it makes life really hard.”
“On one occasion there were two guys in shorts who were obviously going to the gym.
“When I asked them if they were Blue Badge holders they were positively aggressive.”
Councillor Derek Rosie, the cabinet member for sport and leisure at Midlothian Council, urged motorists to park considerately at the Lasswade Centre.
He said: “I know we are all busy people, rushing to pick up family or get to the gym. However, there’s ample parking at Lasswade and it only takes a minute or so more to park in the correct bays.
“It’s at best ironic and at worst downright rude for any able-bodied person to abandon their cay in a bay for Blue Badge holders and then head to the gym for a workout.”
Cllr Rosie said the authority has put up notices stating it is illegal to park in these spaces without the required badge.
He said: “We’re taking this issue extremely seriously. We’re determined the centre should be accessible for everyone in the community, not just the able-bodied.”