Edinburgh council accused of 'stealing' disabled parking spaces during Festival

Council chiefs have been accused of ignoring the needs of disabled drivers by "selling off" parking spaces during the Festival.

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Disabled campaigner Finlay Craig said he had to miss one show he had planned to attend because he could not get near enough the venue to park.

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And he claimed the lack of available spaces meant disabled people were being excluded from a full enjoyment of the Capital's arts extravaganza.

He said: "Edinburgh City Council is just stealing the spaces so they can make a few shillings. It is deliberately ‘selling off’ the rights of disabled people to experience and participate in Edinburgh’s numerous festivals.

"At least five disabled parking bays have been closed in George Street to be replaced by an unnecessary outdoor eating and drinking area."

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He said a large section of the street outside Assembly Rooms had been taken over for people to sit and have coffee or refreshments.

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Disabled bays outside the Assembly Rooms in George Street are out of action during the Festival.

"By renting to commercial organisations parts of streets where blue badge holders had the right to park, the council is showing its disrespect for people with disabilities."

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Mr Craig, who lives in the Borders, said he had been to the Festival several times already this year. “During the jazz festival, I went to two events but a third event I just couldn't get near enough to park so I couldn't go. Around George Square and the university there are four or five marked disabled bays. but you cant access them because the road is closed.

"Whenever I say I'm going up to the Festival, the first thing everybody says is 'Where are you going to park?' The council needs to answer: Why have you reduced disabled spaces during the Festival and why don't you have more? Because if 10 per cent of the population is disabled and the population in general is getting older, they are going against the grain and it's just not fair.

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"Given this is an international festival and you’re wanting to show off Scotland at its best, the assumption that people don't need disabled parking is quite shocking. As the capital city, I think Edinburgh is doing a very poor job on behalf of Scotland.”

Workers roll out the green grass to turn disabled parking into an outdoor eating and drinking area.
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He said disabled people who complained about lack of parking spaces were often reminded that blue-badge holders could park free of charge in ticketed parking areas. But he said such spaces were seldom wide enough for people with limited mobility to get in and out easily. “There's just not enough space to open the doors to get in and particularly where there is parking in the centre of the street, if, as I have to do, you're taking a disabled scooter out of the back of the car then you're in the middle of the road in the process of doing so.

"When you close a road for the purpose of making money by selling it off for an eating area I think it's a disgrace and shows no concern for disabled people.”

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Transport and environment convener Scott Arthur said: “As incoming transport convener I’ve been looking very carefully at how the Festival operates around the city and I’m keen we learn lessons from this and tame the worst aspects.”