Disabled woman fined more than £1,000 for parking in disabled spot
A disabled woman faces fines of more than £1,000 for using a disabled car parking space outside her flat.
Cerys Gemma, who lives in Cardiff Bay, said the space allocated to her flat is inaccessible for her.
Instead, she has been using one of the parking spaces reserved for visitors with disabilities.
Her property firm said it understood her allocated space was being used by a friend while she was attempting to park another car in a space for visitors.
New Generation Parking Management, which manages the bays said the spaces have to be kept free for disabled visitors, not residents.
The company manages the bays for the property management firm Ringley Group, which said visitor spaces are available on a “first-come-first served” basis and free to use – but vehicles must be booked in.
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It also said a friend of Ms Gemma has been using the space that comes with her apartment, and she has been “attempting on a continuous basis” to use an additional visitor’s space.
Ringley Group added that with a short supply of spaces, it has been working with the local council to try and find a solution, which could be a “space swap”, where Ms Gemma trades the one allocated to the apartment for another.
Ms Gemma, 34, said she cannot use the space allocated to her waterside flat in Prospect Place.
She explained that there is a pillar on one side, and another car parking space close on the other side.
Ms Gemma said she had been in contact with the property management and parking companies, trying to explain why she needed to use a wheelchair accessible space.
“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 said.
Ms Gemma has now been ordered to pay by the County Court.
‘Breach of Equality Act’
Cerys Gemma has been using a wheelchair since sustaining serious spinal injuries following a car accident when she was 17.
She said the situation with the fines was now “desperate” and she is seeing a counsellor.
“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,” she added.
Disability rights lawyer Chris Fry, from legal firm Scott Montcrieff & Associates, said there is an obligation to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act.
“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.”
Mr Fry said a breach of the act could result in a company having to pay compensation for “impact of the injury to feelings that the tenant has faced”, and that could mean fines of more than £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.”
Mr Fry thinks the firm 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.
“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,” he said.
New Generation Parking Management said it was simply enforcing the rules to which Prospect Place agreed when it was instructed to manage 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”.
Ms Gemma said she simply wants to be able to live happily in her flat with the knowledge that she is able to park in an accessible space without the worry of more fines.
“Literally every day when I come down to my car I think ‘here we go, is there going to be another ticket?’, and it’s awful”.
A Ringley Group spokesman said New Generation Parking Limited was appointed by its client Prospect Place Management and has taken Ms Gemma to county court for parking fines, not Ringley.
“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,” it said in a statement.
“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.”
The company has met with council officials to try and solve the issue, and the statement 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.”