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West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust's disabled parking plans delayed
Plans to charge disabled drivers to park in St Albans City Hospital have been delayed while a consultation takes place.
The new charge for blue badge holders was due to be introduced at the start of April, but West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust has announced this has been put on hold while a "listening exercise" is conducted.
Jack Easton, who set up a petition against the change at the Waverly Road site, said: "I think it is good that they are reflecting and consulting.
"Lots of people are commenting on the petition with personal stories about just how much it will affect them.
"If the consultation enables the trust to hear some of the stories that people are putting down it would be good."
In January the Review reported how blue badge holders were to be charged the same minimum tariff as any other visitor to St Albans, Watford and Hemel hospitals.
Currently the cheapest parking ticket in Watford General Hospital is £4 for three hours, which drivers have to buy no matter how short their visit.
After that motorists have to pay £6 for five hours or £12 to park all day.
Trixie Harrison, circle of support co-ordinator at St Albans based disability charity Reach Out Plus, said: "It appears to be good news that the planned parking charges are being delayed.
"Hopefully this means that the local opinions about the negative impact that the blue badge charges will have on individuals with disabilities is being taken into account by those who can change things in local government.
"Parking charges are not fair to anyone, full stop. So I hope that blue badge holders and their supporters continue their outcry towards paying the parking charges.
"I suggest that everyone signs any petitions that have been launched regarding this issue to keep it an issue in the public eye, so that the people who make these decisions have to be responsible for them and possibly even meet with the public if that is requested."
A survey on the parking habits of patients and visitors to the hospital has been published online, but has met with widespread criticism from people trying to fill it in.
The plans have now been put on hold until the results of the survey are out.
Louise Gaffney, director for strategy and infrastructure, said: "To try and ensure the survey is as open, accessible and understandable as possible, all the questions were reviewed and feedback incorporated from a number of patients, including blue-badge holders, and our staff representatives.
"The proposed charges for disabled parking have been put on hold until the results of the listening exercise are available. The trust welcomes and values everyone’s opinion. "All views will be listened to and I would urge as many people as possible to complete the survey to help influence the future management of hospital transport and car parking."
The survey is available online at http://travel-survey.com/whht2013/ and can be picked up from reception desks and restaurants at Hemel Hempstead, St Albans and Watford General Hospitals or a postal copy can be requested by telephoning 01923 436280.