Weekly Poll – Blue Badge Exemptions in Low Emission Zones

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 16 January 2023 we asked a question about Blue Badge Exemptions in Low Emission Zones.

Please note that this is a snapshot of the views of our membership and does not reflect a policy stance of Disability Equality Scotland. Any identifying information within respondents’ comments has been removed. If you plan to reference the findings featured in this report, please contact us in advance so that we are aware of this.

Background

Low Emission Zones (LEZs) have been introduced in the city centres of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, and Glasgow to improve air quality and people’s health. Vehicle restrictions will begin in Glasgow from 1 June 2023, with the other three cities following in 2024. Maps of each LEZ can be found on the “Local LEZs” section of the website linked below.

LEZs help to reduce air pollution by keeping the most polluting vehicles out of our city centres where there are existing air quality issues. This will benefit everyone, especially those most affected by air quality such as the very young, the elderly and those with existing health conditions.

Access to these LEZs will only be allowed for vehicles which meet certain emission standards or are exempt. Full details of LEZ entry criteria, exemptions and zone maps can be found on the following website:

www.lowemissionzones.scot

Exemptions

Blue Badge holders are exempt from LEZ restrictions in Scotland and will be able to register vehicles that do not meet the LEZ emission standards so they can travel in LEZs without receiving a fixed penalty charge. Blue Badge holders will be able to apply a long term or one-day exemption to vehicles to grant them access to LEZ areas. A long-term exemption may be used for a single vehicle registered to the Blue Badge holder’s home address and will be valid until the Blue Badge expires. The nominated vehicle can be changed where necessary. One-day exemptions can be applied to any vehicle that the Blue Badge holder is travelling in and will be valid only for the day selected.

Results

Question 1. As a Blue Badge holder, is the vehicle you travel in most often registered at your home address?

  • Yes – 84% (80 respondents)
  • No – 6% (6 respondents)
  • I am not a Blue Badge holder – 10% (9 respondents)

Question 2. How often do you travel through a Low Emission Zone in a car? Please select the option which best fits your usual travel patterns.

Exemptions

Respondents recognised the importance of the Blue Badge scheme in allowing disabled people to park closer to their destination. As such, respondents welcomed the introduction of exemptions.

“Some disabled people, especially rural WAV users, rely on diesel for their WAVs and shouldn’t be denied access to disabled parking spaces in city centres. Parking nearby to businesses or services is so much more crucial for Blue Badge holders.”

“This would be a massive help knowing that we wouldn’t be charged as we don’t qualify for high rate mobility/a Motability vehicle so until our car no longer runs we would be using it.”

“Having an exemption would be of great value rather than having to get on and off public transport to get to shops, my optician and my dentist.”

“I’m glad exemptions will be in place. Life can be difficult enough!”

“I think it’s a good idea. It saves time when making trips for appointments and stops me from having to park far away from my destination.”

“Having the Blue Badge is beneficial to the disabled driver as well as getting access to city dwellings without restrictions is even more beneficial, I don’t know what I’d do without it.”

“I feel strongly that official Blue Badge users should be able to access any shopping areas they wish. If this was not the case, I feel we may be discriminated against.”

Registering Exemptions

Concerns were raised about the registration process that Blue Badge holders must go through to apply for an exemption, with some respondents stating that it would result in an additional layer of bureaucracy.

“Any new regulations that put yet more administrative burden on disabled people should be approached with utmost caution. I am concerned that the proposal for an additional application and repeated applications for ad hoc exemptions may place an unfair burden on disabled people.”

“On a personal level, I am a physically disabled Glasgow resident who is full-time employed, and I’m often overwhelmed by the existing amount of admin I have to do in relation to my disability, healthcare and access requirements.”

“It feels like yet another layer of bureaucracy for disabled people to navigate through.”

One-day Exemptions

Some specific concerns were raised about the process of applying for a one-day exemption. Respondents noted that it is not always possible to pre-plan a journey, particularly if there is an emergency which results in driving through a Low Emission Zone. In which case, respondents felt that it would be onerous and stressful to go through an unnecessary appeals process.

“I’m concerned about the process for short term exemptions. I sometimes need to travel to various Low Emission Zones at very short notice (sometimes the same day). The process needs to be quick and easy to avoid unfairly limiting disabled people’s ability to be spontaneous.”

“What happens if we forget to register for a one-day exemption, will we get letters threatening fines? Will there be a robust and fair appeals process?”

“How many people will apply for short term exemptions and how quick will that process be if e.g., you have an emergency situation that requires you or family to go through the LEZ.”

“Concern that medical appointments at hospitals within the Glasgow zone may be required, particularly at short notice. My husband, the car registered owner, used to work in Glasgow and was very familiar with the streets and regulations there, however he has been retired for a number of years and conditions will have changed (as with the LEZ Zone).”

Suggestions

A number of respondents believed that exemptions should be made as simple as possible and align closely with the existing Blue Badge application process. Some respondents suggested that exemptions should be applied automatically without the need to complete a registration form.

“I would welcome: 1. Any way that these proposals could be streamlined via existing processes (perhaps linked to the Blue Badge application itself), and 2. An overall exemption to be granted to Blue Badge holders for all LEZs (as opposed to making individual applications for one-off trips).”

“It would be good if the DVLA records could be cross matched with the Blue Badge central records and the system for issuing fines. That would be a more effective method of automatically monitoring without user input and would be a better approach to managing the traffic and fines.”

“Could it not be done automatically? Also how is it going to work if visiting other cities?”

“I think there should be the ability for councils to link in with DVLA for nil road tax for disability rather than disabled people having to apply for yet another thing. If they are linked to numberplate recognition, then surely this is possible.”

Promotion

A few comments were raised about the need to publicise the exemptions wider so that Blue Badge holders can prepare themselves for the introduction. In doing so, it is important to use a variety of accessible formats and communication channels.

“Not everyone is aware of the exemption for Blue Badge holders and it should be publicised more.”

“I hadn’t heard about this until I saw this poll, we need to get the message out now that it is coming in soon.”

“Please share details of this new system using formats like BSL, Easy Read and large print etc. Plus, don’t just use online, get the information into local communities through GP surgeries, libraries, Post Offices etc.”

Conclusion

Respondents highlighted the importance of the Blue Badge scheme for gaining access to key services and therefore welcomed exemptions in Low Emission Zones. However, concerns were raised about the registration process, with some believing it will result in another layer of bureaucracy for disabled people. There were also concerns about registration for one-day exemptions and how this would impact spontaneous travel, particularly in an emergency. A number of respondents suggested that the process should be streamlined so that exemptions are applied automatically.