File photo: AFP

London - Obese drivers who are too fat to walk short distances are being given blue badges allowing them to park in disabled bays.

The free permits for spaces next to shops, stations and other busy areas are being handed out by councils to overweight people who can’t walk more than 50 metres.

At least half a dozen such permits were recorded in the UK in the last three years, according to figures obtained in a Freedom of Information request by MailOnline.

However, the real figure is likely to be much higher because most councils do not keep records of the reasons for handing out the badges.

Last night, critics were appalled at the findings, arguing the money would be better spent on helping the obese lose weight.

Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, said: “I don’t think councils should be giving these passes out as the obesity problem gets worse.

“That is pandering to an individual who should be taking responsibility and getting themselves in shape. Local councils have to put these people on weight management courses, which are considerably cheaper.”

Department for Transport guidelines state a person can apply for a permit if they have a “permanent and substantial disability that causes inability to walk or very considerable difficulty in walking.”

Most people with a disability have to undergo a series of medical assessments before they are considered eligible for a blue badge.

Under the guidelines, obese people can obtain one by demonstrating they cannot walk more than 50m.

In the last three years, Walsall council in the West Midlands gave badges to six applicants who had listed obesity as a medical condition. Coventry also gave out permits to such applicants but a spokesman said they did not know how many. East Renfrewshire Council also issued blue badges to overweight applicants “dependent on the impact this has had on the applicant’s ability to walk.” None of the other councils that responded to requests for information kept records of the reasons for giving out blue badges.

Councillor Chris Towe, of Walsall Council, said: “All assessments are undertaken by an independent mobility assessor in line with Government legislation. Each applicant is assessed against their mobility, not their medical condition.”

Daily Mail