Cheshire East Council is pioneering a change in the law so that all people aged 85 and over will automatically qualify for the Blue Badge disabled persons’ parking scheme.
Blue Badges enable people with severe mobility problems to park closer to their destination and can be used by disabled people travelling as a driver or as a passenger.
Giving Blue Badges to people automatically when they reach 85 is one of a raft of policies which the Council wants to introduce in order to combat social isolation and assist people to live longer, healthier lives while remaining independent.
The Council is writing to Patrick McLoughlin MP, Secretary of State for Transport, asking him to make the necessary legislative changes to the scheme.
Only 4,202 out of Cheshire East’s 10,400 over-85s currently have a Blue Badge, so automatic qualification could benefit more than 6,000 people.
Councillor Michael Jones, Leader of Cheshire East Council, said: “Supporting people to be independent and live well for longer is really important to us as a Council that puts residents first.
“Removing the hassle of having to prove eligibility for a Blue Badge will help the over-85s to lead more active lives.
“They may want to go on social visits or do their own shopping and have a carer to drive them around, but if they can’t park close to where they are going, they may lack the confidence to get out and about.
“This is not a big gesture, it’s just common sense that we should help people to be as mobile as possible and take part in society.
“As a Council, we aim to fix the causes of problems, not just treat the symptoms. So it’s right that we should tackle social isolation head on and remove this barrier that stops people enjoying the quality of life they deserve.
“I think we are the first council to look at doing this. We’re certainly the first to write to the government about it.”
Councillor Jones said he would also like to see changes in the way disability is defined, so that people with agoraphobia and other mental health conditions can qualify for the disabled persons’ parking scheme.
Blue Badge holders can park free for any length of time on streets with restrictions and on yellow lines for up to three hours, unless a loading ban is in place.
Alongside its desire to enable more people to benefit, Cheshire East remains vigilant about possible fraud and is tough on selfish, anti-social people who abuse the scheme.
Last November, the Council prosecuted a 73-year-old Macclesfield man who had fraudulently used a dead disabled person’s Blue Badge to avoid paying parking fees. Magistrates ordered him to pay £675 in fines and costs.