When Robyn Read heard frontline NHS staff faced paying hefty charges to park by Bristol’s hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic, she rallied neighbours to help.
Key workers have been told to avoid using public transport where possible to limit the spread of COVID-19, yet were having to fork out £6 every eight hours to use city centre car parks when they drove in.
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Cotham resident Robyn offered the use of her spare parking permits to help and launched a local campaign, asking other permit-holders to help while also lobbying Bristol City Council and the mayor to make parking free for NHS staff in public car parks.
Her efforts have paid off twofold. More than 100 days worth of parking permits have now been donated to be distributed around the workforces of Bristol Royal Infirmary and St Michael’s Hospital, and the council has heeded the message and announced Trenchard Street car park will be available for key NHS staff as the pandemic heightens.
It was less than a week ago that Robyn first spoke out about the parking charges. “My colleague’s partner works at the hospital in Bristol city centre and was told she should stop using public transport to and from work,” explains Robyn.
“They don’t usually drive as it costs £6 every eight hours to park there so I offered my parking permit in Cotham.
“I thought that if I could offer mine then other people in my area would want to help. You get so many visitor permits per year that you’d have to be pretty popular to use them all. I am a user of the NextDoor app (an app which lets you connect with your neighbours) and asked my neighbours if they had any spare visitors parking permits. The response has been incredible; we have over 100 days donated and lots of others offering their off-road parking spaces.
“I appreciate we won’t be able to help every worker (and we’d really love to) but any small help my community can give we will.”
Bristol City Council announced on Monday that Trenchard Street car park is available for key NHS workers to use free of charge during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mayor Marvin Rees said: “At a time when our NHS staff are on the frontline in the fight against the spread of the Covid-19 virus, we want to ensure those key staff that need to get to work in the city are able to with the minimum of disruption.
“The official social distancing advice remains that people should work from home whenever possible, but we understand that there are key staff in our hospitals that are required to work and we hope that measures like making the Trenchard Street car park available to them free of charge can help make it easier for them to get to work.
“We also thank those managing other private car parks in the city, such as the Galleries and Cabot Circus, who are also offering this service, which will help out NHS staff to avoid using public transport where they can.’’
Robyn has welcomed the move but argues NHS staff should not be charged to park even once the pandemic has passed.
Main photo by Martin Booth