Denise Craghill, Guildhall Councillor told the Council Executive
The security services told us that measures to protect the large numbers of pedestrians in our city centre from terrorist attacks were urgent going on for a year ago. It was in February, well over 6 months ago that the decision was made by Executive to go ahead.
A lot of hard work has been done by officers on planning the practical implementation and this has included some very useful surveys of blue badge holders – to better understand how they use city centre parking. And yet at the Policy Development committee just over a week ago representatives of disability groups were clearly coming to these proposals for the first time. Conversations that should have started at least 6 months ago seem to be only starting now. And whilst these conversations may well highlight new ideas, surely the onus for suggesting mitigation measures shouldn’t be solely on city centre users with disabilities? It’s still very unclear what mitigation measures the Council itself will be bringing to the table from Day 1 of the experimental order – in terms of alternative and improved services for people with disabilities including city centre residents?
Options such as security checked access for Dial-a-Ride and York Wheels are only now being looked at. Plans to improve Shopmobility and provide additional dedicated bays in off street car parks are still very unclear. We seem to be heading for a trial experimental period without sufficient mitigation in place and without the high tech solutions that will make mitigation, such as security checked access, easier and more effective – a strange and not very realistic trial period during which either people with disabilities will suffer or the security measures won’t be fully implemented – but which will delay full implementation of even the first phase by a further 6 months and probably longer. At the current rate of progress implementation of all 3 phases could take 2 – 3 years – surely a ridiculously long time in security terms? At the same time, it isn’t being made as clear as it should be that phases 2 and 3 include streets that lead into the current Priority 1 area and therefore can only provide temporary solutions for blue badge holders. We need to be honest about this.
There is a clear security imperative for getting on with this as quickly as possible. It also presents an opportunity for York to catch up with other cities that now have largely vehicle free central shopping areas that are not only safe but also offer the attractive pedestrian friendly environment needed to prosper in a rapidly changing world. It is also an opportunity to invest proactively in much improved city centre facilities for people with disabilities such as Shopmobility. Please make sure that this process is properly resourced to proceed as quickly as possible.