Wheelchair user ordered to pay £1,800 for parking in disabled bay at her own home

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Cerys Gemma, 34, has been allocated a standard space in the car park of her apartment complex. However, she says the space is “tiny” and flanked by a pillar which makes it impossible for her to get her wheelchair out of her car, so she has instead been using one of the disabled bays. The parking firm has, though, issued Cerys with a series of £100 fines since then – and each of these has risen to £160 because Cerys refused to pay them.

New Generation Parking Management says the space is only for visitors at the Prospect Place apartment complex in Cardiff Bay, Cardiff.

The company has this month made a claim through the County Court Business Centre over five unpaid fines amounting to £800.

It is demanding £1,036 from Cerys including interest and legal costs. She says she is also facing at least five £160 penalties not included in the court claim – meaning a bill totalling more than £1,800, Wales Online reports.

Cerys, who lost use of her legs aged 17 in a car accident, has accused New Generation of disability discrimination. She said: “The prospect of going to court makes me feel physically sick. I think to put somebody in that position in 2022 in a developed country, it is disgusting.”

I think to put somebody in that position in 2022 in a developed country, it is disgusting

Cerys Gemma

The motorist has suffered panic attacks as a result of the showdown and has sought counselling.

A spokesman for New Generation said: “We are astounded to be accused of disability discrimination when we have communicated with Cerys exactly what the rules are and why they are in place.”

Cerys, whose grandad owns her flat in Prospect Place, first lived there in 2013 for around a year.

“I always parked in the disabled space – I would put my blue badge in and have no issues at all,” said Cerys, who is an operations manager at a charity.

She moved back in July 2020 and was baffled when she started receiving penalties for parking in the disabled bay. The only people allowed to use the space are disabled visitors who get a 24-hour ticket from a machine. After it expires they cannot return for 48 hours.

“I went through a phase of parking in the disabled space and putting tickets in the car but it was exhausting and very anxiety-provoking,” said Cerys.

“I was constantly thinking about it.

“Since being disabled I get ill regularly and I’m at home recovering for longer than most people. If I’m sick or unable to put a ticket in my car I would get a fine. In the end I stopped putting tickets in due to the stress it was causing.

“I’m still parking in the disabled space because I have no other option. It’s impossible to use my space because it’s too narrow. My driver door has to open far enough so I can lift the wheelchair over myself and get it out.”

She complained to New Generation but the company threatened her with legal action, replying: “You have given us misleading information claiming that you need the disabled bay because of your disability. When in fact your allocated bay is a lot closer to the entrance of your building. We would also like to inform you that the terms and conditions for parking have already been agreed and we have the absolute right to determine who is in breach of those terms and conditions… Now that you have been armed with all the relevant information we will not be entering into any further correspondence with you regarding this matter.”

Cerys felt “really angry, frustrated, and sad” when she received the email. She added: “I’ve been in a wheelchair since I was 17 and I’ve never had anyone speak to me like that. Generally people have always had some level of consideration and grace. It’s like the company is not speaking to a human being.”

The row has taken a “major toll” on Cerys’ mental health and she fears it will worsen if she has to attend court. She expects to find out the next step after she responds to New Generation’s claim form with her defence.

A New Generation spokesman told WalesOnline: “Miss Cerys Gemma was informed August 2020 via email: ‘We are conscious that it is your intention to continue using the disabled visitors bay as your own personal space. However we have to make it absolutely clear that there are financial consequences to ignoring the terms and conditions that are set out on the contractual signage located at the disabled bays. Additionally we need to also make it clear that it is not your allocated bay and is for the use of all disabled visitors.’

“Cerys was aware that if she continued to breach the parking terms and conditions she would continue to incur further parking charge notices. She has chosen to ignore these charges and therefore we have no choice but to take legal action through the courts. Disabled bays within Prospect Place have always been for the use of visitors only, this has not changed since Miss Gemma became a resident in July 2020.

“There are just under 1,000 flats located within Prospect Place, each one with allocated parking of which Cerys would have been made aware of before she decided to move into the property. There is limited space available for visitor parking and six visitor disabled bays. In addition to this, parking is currently limited due to ongoing cladding works. It is simply not viable to give special permission to residents to allow them to use visitor spaces or visitor disabled bays as their own personal bay. It would further limit the accessibility and availability for visitors who need these spaces.

“We are astounded to be accused of disability discrimination when we have communicated with Cerys exactly what the rules are and why they are in place. While we sympathise with Cerys we do not have the power to move her parking space which she agreed to when entering into the lease agreement. The disabled bays will continue to be for the use of visitors only as changing this rule for one resident would mean we would need to change it for everyone. There are limited options available to disabled visitors and we refuse to limit these even more. We will continue to ensure that to the best of our ability the visitor spaces are fair and available for all visitors, including disabled drivers.” 

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