DISABLED residents are being banned from using disabled parking bays at Waterside Farm Leisure Centre due to a 40-year-old council blunder.

For almost 40 years, disabled residents have been able to park outside the entrance to the leisure centre, in Somnes Avenue, Canvey. It makes it easier for less able bodied people to use the popular sports centre.

But residents are no longer allowed to park there.

Castle Point Council has revealed the disabled bays were painted there by mistake when the building was first opened in 1976.

The council said due to health and safety reasons, the area outside can only be used by school coaches, staff and delivery vehicles.

Canvey Independent councillor Dave Blackwell has said it is “nonsense” and has criticised the authority for appearing to give priority to more able-bodied visitors.

Mr Blackwell said: “I’ve had quite a few complaints from people who have been told by staff they can’t park in the disabled bays at the front anymore, which is ridiculous.

“It doesn’t make any sense.

They’ve always been there since it opened.

“I had one woman ring me whose husband is in a wheelchair and goes to play table tennis every week.

“Now because they can’t use the disabled bays at the front anymore, it is making harder work for her having to push her husband all the way across the car park and up the kerbs.

“Where are we when we can’t help disabled people in the borough and make it harder for them instead of easier?

“It doesn’t make the council look good when disabled people are having to struggle while our able-bodied staff can park in the disabled bays.”

Trudie Bragg, head of environment, said: “The area in front of the leisure centre has controlled barrier access and only staff with a key fob can open the barrier; disabled drivers are unable to access this area.

Unfortunately, some of the bays at the front of the building have been incorrectly marked out as disabled bays and it is this that is causing some confusion.

“I have asked to arrange for the bays to be correctly marked at the earliest opportunity. For safety reasons the area out the front is reserved for school coach parking, staff and for delivery vehicles.

“The disabled bays that we do provide have been positioned as close as possible to the leisure centre (i.e. adjacent to the fitness suite) within the part of the car park where public access is not restricted.”