A HAMPSHIRE councillor has quit the Conservatives and defected to UKIP over plans to make disabled motorists pay to park in the New Forest.

Councillor Chris Lagdon has resigned from the ruling Tory group on New Forest District Council in protest at its decision to scrap the free parking currently enjoyed by more than 10,000 Blue Badge holders in the area.

The 53-year-old father of two, who represents Totton East, accused the authority of trying to make money out of vulnerable people.

“I cannot be associated with a party which treats the disabled of our community with such contempt,”

he said.

As reported in the Daily Echo, the ruling Cabinet has approved plans to make Blue Badge holders pay to use council-owned car parks in the district in a move that aims to boost the authority’s annual income by £75,000.

The controversial scheme is expected to be rubber-stamped at the next full meeting of the council on April 15. However, protest groups have threatened to challenge the necessary traffic regulation orders, saying they amount to discrimination against the disabled.

They have also warned that many of those affected will avoid the charges by parking in busy town centre streets.

Cllr Lagdon, who is also a member of Totton and Eling Town Council, said: “The proposed charging of Blue Badge holders is unfounded.

“It will cause disabled people to park on double yellow lines – something they have a perfect right to do – and so cause traffic problems in an already congested town.”

Cllr Lagdon claimed that some of the arguments being used to support the scheme amounted to “infantile thinking”.

He added: “We all know it’s down to making money out of the more vulnerable members of our community – or at least thinking they can.”

Tory members have defended the proposal, saying all motorists should contribute to the cost of operating council-owned car parks in the Forest.

In common with other drivers Blue Badge holders will be able to buy an annual parking permit that allows them to use short stay parking spaces all year round for the equivalent of just 40p a week.

Cllr Paul Vickers, Cabinet member for planning and transport, said: “I feel we have been fair in coming to our conclusions.”