THE controversial changes to disabled parking in Kendal town centre were implemented on Monday, provoking anger from users who have slammed the new system.

For a six-month trial period, the disabled bays on Finkle Street and in Market Square will be removed. Instead, disabled drivers will have access to ‘dual-use’ bays set aside for both loading and disabled parking on Highgate and Stricklandgate. These will be open to disabled users between 11am and 4pm.

But some blue badge holders and supporters have long opposed the idea, and more than 1,000 signatures have been collected for a petition.

Petition organiser and blue badge holder Shirley Alker had been appealing to people to oppose the trial and prevent the newly implemented changes from becoming long-term.

“What a disgrace that the disabled are treated as second class citizens or even as children to be sent home at 4 o’clock in the afternoon!” said Ms Alker. “We need to stop this cruel experiment which shows the failure of councillors to appreciate the difficulties faced by the disabled who are trying to keep their independence.

“Blue Badges are given to the disabled who cannot walk 100 yards. There is car park within 100 yards of the centre of Kendal. What’s more, every access to the centre of Kendal is up a steep hill.”

The trial is planned to last six months, during which there will be a consultation period. This enables people to contact Cumbria County Council to raise concerns about the changes to the bays.

A spokesperson for CCC said: “The experimental changes to disabled parking in Kendal are intended to improve pedestrian safety in the areas around Market Square while maintaining parking options for disabled people.

“The change would remove the four parking bays on Market Square (which are unavailable on Wednesdays and Saturdays) and three on Finkle Street and replace them with nine parking bays on Highgate and Stricklandgate which will be available from 11am to 4pm every day.

“The impact of the changes would be monitored closely and may not be permanent. The council’s South Lakeland Local Committee will make a final decision on the new arrangements after a six-month consultation period.”