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Mill Road bridge Blue Badge claim was wrong

A vote to close Mill Road bridge in Cambridge to private motor vehicles remains valid despite an error made in a statement about Blue Badge exemptions in the meeting at which the decision was made.

Mill Road bridge in Cambridge shut to cars due the Covid 19 pandemic. Picture: Keith Heppell. (61960698)
Mill Road bridge in Cambridge shut to cars due the Covid 19 pandemic. Picture: Keith Heppell. (61960698)

Cambridgeshire County Council has confirmed that a disabled person who holds a Blue Badge permit can register two vehicles so they will be allowed to cross the bridge without being fined. But this is only the case if the Blue Badge holder is travelling in the vehicle, meaning carers for that person cannot cross the bridge to visit them.

This directly contradicts a statement made by Cllr Alex Becket (Lib Dem, Queen Edith’s) who chaired the highways and transport committee meeting where the decision was taken.

In the March 7 meeting, he said: “The current policy exemptions allow Blue Badge holders to register two vehicles. It doesn’t require them to be in the vehicles. They’re allowed to register two vehicles. So therefore a Blue Badge holder that had a carer could potentially give one of those registrations to the carer’s vehicle, and then they will be allowed to pass.”

The county council has now admitted this is wrong.

It confirmed in a statement: “The Blue Badge holder must be in the vehicle when travelling through the Mill Road bus gate.”

A spokesperson added: “The comment given at the meeting does not invalidate the decision taken.”

A new Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) was voted for by the committee that will enable a bus gate to be installed on Mill Road bridge, managed by ANPR cameras, preventing private motor vehicles from crossing. Pedestrians, cycles, buses, taxis and registered Blue Badge holders will still be allowed to cross. There will be fines for anyone breaking the rules.

The closure is expected to start in the summer.

Cllr Neil Shailer (Lab, Romsey), vice chair of the highways and transport committee, said: “We were discussing it before the meeting and then there was some question about [the Blue Badge exemptions]. And so we had the wrong impression.”

He added: “We want to know how many carers actually fall into that category who need to move across that particular bridge and not come in from other direction. And then we’ll look at the possibility of finding exceptions if we can without forming a precedent and materially changing the Transport Regulation Order.”

He admitted that the rule would be difficult to police, given the ANPR cameras do not check who is travelling in a vehicle.

For the first 28 days after the scheme goes live, drivers who are not exempt will be sent a warning notice but no fine for the first time they breach the restriction.

Once the warning period comes to an end, drivers who breach the restriction may receive a penalty charge notice of £70, discounted to £35 if paid within 14 days.

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