THOUGHTLESS motorists have been slammed after a dramatic rise in the number of fines handed out to people illegally parking in disabled bays.

Around 140 fixed penalty notices have already been issued in the first six months of this year across Burnley and Padiham’s off-street car parks.

Drivers have been forced to hand over more than £2,800 for ignoring blue-badge provisions at places like The Pioneer and Thompson Centre sites. This compares to just 148 similar notices during the whole of 2011, which resulted in fines of just over £3,220, and 72 the previous year, netting £1,692.

It is understood the overall total will be even higher when on-street parking bays, overseen by Lancashire County Council for the borough, are also taken into account.

Peter Stobbs, the borough council’s engineering manager, said: “Blue badge holders can park for an unlimited period of time in limited waiting parking bays on the street, and in any of our car parks free for up to three hours.

“If vehicles are parked in a blue badge space without a valid blue badge, enforcement action will be taken.

“For fraud prevention reasons, we will also issue a penalty notice if an invalid blue badge is displayed.”

The current split-level enforcement system replaced the controversial Parkwise scheme, run by the county council, which was axed three years ago.

A spokesperson for disability charity Scope said: “It is disappointing to hear that so many people have been parking in disabled parking spaces inappropriately.

“We know that for many people with mobility, visual, and other impairments, the convenience of a designated parking bay can make a huge difference in enabling them to get out and about to use local amenities.

“We’d encourage people to avoid parking in disabled bays, leaving them available for disabled people who genuinely need them.”