DISABLED shoppers and Burnley MP Peter Pike have demanded changes to a town centre traffic scheme which they claim could spell the end of a vital service.

More than 100 users and volunteers have signed a protest petition in just four days after it was revealed that only two or three cars will be able to park outside the Shopmobility base in St James Street when work aimed at improving the town centre is complete.

Mr Pike sent an urgent fax to Burnley Council when he heard about the situation and a meeting with council officials and council leader Stuart Caddy has been arranged for tomorrow in a bid to find a solution.

Changes in the traffic system outside the shop, scheduled to start this week, mean the narrowing of the highway with one way for cars and a two-way bus lane.

The £270,000 scheme, drawn up by Burnley Council, is designed to improve St James Street between Marks and Spencer and Westgate and includes new road and pavement surfaces, pavement widening and street furniture.

The work is expected to last three months but parking space has been left for only two or three cars outside the shop where between 20-30 disabled orange badge holders normally park.

The service provides motorised scooters and wheelchairs so that the disabled can shop in the town. Many of the shops have also improved access for the disabled.

Many of the users cannot walk any distance and some not at all, including one woman who visits from Clitheroe and who has lost both legs beneath the kneee and one arm. Shopmobility chairman and trustee Gordon Kirkham said the scheme was going ahead despite formal objections.

He said: "There is every danger the shop will have to close if this does proceed. If people cannot reach us we cannot operate.

"We have been here six years now with up to 20 people with badges parking on the double yellow lines. They are removing those spaces with every danger that we will have to close."

The petition organisers are Meg Harding and Jean Stott, both wheelchair users and volunteer helpers at Shopmobility, which now has more than 350 members in Burnley.

Meg said: "Jean and I only became fully aware last week of the fact that there would be only two or three spaces for disabled parking on Lower St James Street outside the Shopmobility shop.

"We feel that local disabled people and the surrounding areas need to keep the service going."

Meg, of Padiham, said she and others had been able to grasp back their independence since the wheelchair and scooter service became available.

Jean, of Haslingden, who was disabled by polio, visits Burnley four times a week. She said: "I do the shopping for family. My husband has a heart condition and if I couldn't do the shopping by using a scooter here in Burnley it would be more stress for him."

Mr Pike, Burnley Shopmobility president, said he had supported the service even before it was set up.

He said: "I have faxed the council after being approached at the weekend. It seems to be a legitimate concern.

"I don't know what happened during the consultation exercise but I have made contact with the council as a matter of urgency. Unfortunately I cannot be at tomorrow's meeting as I am in London but if this goes ahead it will cause serious problems.

"I hope even at this late stage that there is some way of finding a solution."

Council leader Stuart Caddy today said he would try to attend tomorrow's meeting to talk to protesters.