A MINEHEAD man has spoken out at his frustration as he feels a series of cuts mean the town is no longer ‘disabled-friendly’.

Wheelchair user Nigel Gates, 45, says getting into town is increasingly difficult.

“First it started when West Somerset Council decided to start charging blue badge holders to use pay and display car parks,” Mr Gates said.

“I only have a limited income and half my mobility scheme money is spent on my wheelchair accessible van, so being charged to park is an extra burden which makes it difficult,” Mr Gates said.

Mr Gates said his next step was to park outside Minehead Old Hospital, which was one of the only places in the town centre that was wide enough for him to exit his van through the back doors without causing an obstruction and still be in the town centre do his shopping.

“But this has now been stopped because the County Council have put in yellow lines by the Old Hospital,” Mr Gates said.

“So my next step was to try and get the bus into town - but the town service has been taken over by Ridlers coaches - so while it is good there is a service, the coaches have steep steps so are not disabled friendly - and they are not easily accessible for frail elderly people either,” Mr Gates said.

“All in all it makes me feel as a disabled person not very welcome in the town centre. I understand there are financial pressures the councils are under but it feels like a lot of these cuts are affecting vulnerable residents,” Mr Gates said.

West Somerset Council said when the decision was made to remover the zero tariff for blue badge holders in its Pay & Display car parks, the council recognised that customers who hold blue badges may require additional time to return to the vehicle and therefore a concession was made entitling blue badge holders to an extra hour of free parking when the paid session ends.”

A spokesman for Somerset County Council said: “Blue badge holders may park on yellow lines for up to three hours, providing they are not causing an obstruction and there is no loading restriction. They may also park in a disabled bay without limit unless signs say otherwise and in an on-street bay without time limit.

“We will be reviewing all parking within Minehead early in 2019 and this will include the level of disabled bays. The comments from Mr Gates are appreciated and will be considered as part of this review.”

In regards to the buses, Somerset County Council highlighted that the 11 Minehead Town Service is operated by Ridlers Coaches on a commercial basis.

The SCC spokesman continued: “The legal position is that coaches can be used on local bus services until January 1, 2020, when the Disability Discrimination Act comes into force which states buses must be accessible.

“However, we understand Ridlers has also recently purchased a low floor accessible bus for this route which means the service will be improved in future.

“In addition, residents can also pre-book journeys on the local demand responsive Slinky bus service which is specifically provided to serve residents who for whatever reason cannot use the scheduled local bus network.

“Residents need to register with the operator, ATWEST, and can then pre-book their journeys at least 24 hours in advance.”