DISABLED parking bays are set to return to Witney’s High Street following a change of heart by the county council.

In August, the county council introduced a ban on loading and waiting along one side of High Street, which meant blue badge holders could no longer park there.

Previously the road just had double yellow lines, allowing disabled drivers to park.

The change was implemented to help buses pass along the street more easily, but disabled drivers condemned the move and their complaints have prompted a rethink.

The council is now proposing introducing parking for up to three hours for disabled drivers on the east side of High Street, near Boots, and on the west side at Market Square. Consultation on the proposal runs until December 14.

The council’s cabinet member for transport, Wychwoods councillor Rodney Rose, said: “We had to have a rethink on this, because people complained. People living in the hinterland of Witney who are disabled rely on their cars and they need some disabled parking in the town centre.”

The move comes at the same time as West Oxfordshire District Council has adopted a revised strategy for its town centre car parks.

Councillors say they want to meet a rising demand for spaces, especially for shoppers, while retaining free parking to help trade in the town.

All 853 spaces at the Woolgate car park will be made short-stay, meaning motorists can park for a maximum of three hours.

At the moment, there are 144 long-stay, nine-hour spaces, with the rest designated as short-stay.

Nine-hour spaces will instead be provided on the top two floors of the Marriotts Walk multi-storey car park, where the current maximum is five hours.

As part of the strategy, the temporary Woodford Way car park will remain open for the next three years.

Lesley Semaine, chairman of Witney Chamber of Commerce, said: “We wholeheartedly give our backing to this strategy and appreciate the support from the council.

“Witney is a bustling, vibrant town and the car parks, particularly the Woolgate, do get very busy. The freeing up of short-stay spaces will help to keep the flow moving, so this is welcome as a first step.”

It is estimated about 100,000 people visit the town centre each week and a review by the council found demand for off-street parking was rising by five per cent every year.

Usage figures compiled for the review show the Woolgate car park is 87 per cent used, up four per cent over the past year-and-a-half, while use of the Marriotts Walk car park has risen from 37 per cent to 43 per cent over the same period.

The council’s cabinet approved the strategy last Wednesday.

David Harvey, the cabinet member for the environment, said: “It’s fantastic that so many people want to come to Witney. However, we recognise the need to cater for growing demand and this strategy will provide a stepping stone to realising the longer-term measures needed to accommodate future needs.”