DISABLED drivers have voiced dismay as unscrupulous motorists are taking advantage of a lack of parking enforcement due to the Covid-19 pandemic to park in spaces reserved for blue badge holders.

Checks of disabled spaces at public car parks in Darlington in recent days have seen just one of the eight cars parked in the designated bays at Darlington Memorial Hospital displaying a blue badge, and none at the spaces in Commercial Street East or Barnard Street.

Disabled drivers say the inconsiderate parking has left them struggling to attend hospital appointments or shop for essentials.

Former mayor of Darlington Councillor Nick Wallis, whose wife Sandy has a blue badge, said it had become increasingly difficult to park in disabled bays since lockdown restrictions had been eased.

Cllr Wallis said: “This is having a real impact on some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“It is clear that some people think they can park in these spaces with impugnity as the car parking rules have been suspended, but there are reasons why there are blue badges.

“If you challenge other drivers about parking there you can get a mouthful, so it needs to be enforced by wardens and it needs to happen now.”

Since parking charges were suspended on health and safety grounds in March no fixed penalty notices over parking have been issued in the borough.

A Darlington Borough Council spokesman said car park enforcement had been suspended at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in Darlington and the civic enforcement team were assigned a range of other duties, including supporting the Darlington Community Support Hub.

The team was also tasked with working closely with police to tackle social distancing and antisocial behaviour, help reopen facilities and more recently had focused on “challenges around environmental crime” and the reopening of the town centre.

He said enforcement action against dangerous and obstructive parking was being re-introduced and officers would target those who unlawfully occupy disabled and loading bays.

He said it was “clear that certain road users have had complete disregard for others” and enforcement officers would take positive action against those committing offences at disabled or loading bays, restricted parking zones or on single or double yellow lines.