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Darlington charity numbers drop after parking changes
A CHARITY providing essential care for thousands of elderly people has claimed its visitor numbers have fallen after the axing of a well used public car park.
Age UK Darlington, in Beaumont Street West, said Darlington Borough Council’s decision to introduce a business permit only facility just yards from its base had severely affected services.
The charity, which welcomes around 120 people a week alone for day care, also offers bathing, chiropody, hairdressing, therapy, hospital transport and financial support for customers.
However, bosses said they fear regulars are now marooned at home because they cannot navigate a steep hill from car parks in Beaumont Street to their building.
The changes were introduced in April, and Gillian Peel, chief executive of the charity’s Darlington base, said they had been offered around six permits - for £950 each.
She said: “It has definitely impacted upon us, the council say the next car park is only an extra 40 yards away, but it is all uphill to get to our building and that is hard for many people who have trouble walking.
“They have also said about people applying for blue disabled badges, but it is not as straightforward as that because many customers rely on neighbours to drop them off.
“Our volunteer drivers also struggle because, although they can park on double yellow lines for 20 minutes to pick up and drop people off, they are sometimes much longer than that because of the various services customers are using.
“On one occasion, I even saw two cars come into the car park, people get out to pay, and then leave because they couldn’t stay.”
Mrs Peel said the charity, which also has 160 volunteers in a be-friending scheme offering companionship to elderly people, accepted the necessity of a permit-based car park, but said the council had misjudged its location.
She said: “I can see the need for a business car park, but there is a bigger block in Beaumont Street which could have been used.
“I think the council thought we were just the headquarters, but we have so much going on here and it is a shame people are missing out.”
A Darlington Borough Council spokeswoman said: “We are aware of the concerns raised by Age UK and we have been discussing these fully since the changes were proposed.
“There continues to be a drop-off and a blue badge parking area next to the entrance and street parking and pay and display parking is a five-minute walk from the Age UK Centre; the Centre has also been offered spaces to rent.
“However, we are aware of the many challenges and concerns of volunteers and visitors to the Centre and we will continue to work with them to address these.
“In particular, if visitors are unable to make the short walk, we are working with the Centre to see if they are eligible for blue badge parking passes.”