SURREY Heath Council's move to charge disabled motorists to park in Camberley town centre has been slammed as "heartless".
Labour councillor Pam Loyal said on Monday that she was "absolutely appalled" that the proposal had been backed by the council's executive.
As a physiotherapist with over 30 years experience working with physically handicapped people, she continued: "It's disgraceful that this council should even consider charging the disabled."
She hit out after the executive decided that free parking should be scrapped for disabled Blue Badge holders when a Pay on Foot system is introduced in the council's multi-storey car parks next year.
The system, which will cost the Tory-controlled council £454,500 to set up, will require motorists to pay when they return to their vehicles.
Coun Loyal, who serves on Camberley's Mencap committee, said the borough's badge holders would be penalised on the time factor alone.
"Can you imagine just how laborious and time consuming it must be if you are, for example, a paraplegic in a wheelchair, or you have severe MS?" she continued.
"Obviously they are going to take much longer than those who are able bodied, and so will be forced to pay more to park."
She added that a car is a vital necessity rather than a luxury for the disabled, who found it almost impossible to take wheelchairs on public transport.
Calling on the council to think again, Coun Loyal said: "A way must be found to enable the concession for the disabled to be retained.
"This must happen, otherwise this council will be seen to be heartless and penny pinching."
But executive chairwoman Moira Gibson claimed that, with 10,000 Blue Badge holders in the borough, it would be impracticable to allow them all to park free.
"It's impossible because of the sheer logistics," she said. "We have consulted other local authorities and most have taken the same view as us."
To soften the blow, the council is providing extra free disabled parking bays at the Knoll Road surface car park.
"Badge holders can also park on double lines around Main Square," added Coun Gibson