Some of you will have seen press reports and social media posts stating that a recent decision taken by Lib Dem and Green Party councillors about safety measures in York’s Footstreets would have a negative impact on people with disabilities.
This was clearly a very difficult decision for our councillors as part of a joint administration, with the need to balance everyone’s safety with the needs of some disabled people.
We believe that our councillors have adopted the least worst solution available to them. Or in other words, all the other options were worse than the chosen option.
The police advised the council that in order to reduce the risk from a terrorist attack and protect people from harm in the event of one, certain streets in the footstreets area of York would have to be closed to all but emergency vehicles. The safety of our citizens and visitors is paramount, and therefore the council has to take the advice of the police on this very seriously.
We understand this removes access for Blue Badge from those streets and therefore we urged the council to consult with disability groups from the very start of this process. After two years of discussing alternative arrangements with disabled people and groups including blue badge holders, the least worst option was decided on.
With pressure from Green councillors, the council is seeking to put in place measures to improve accessibility across York, including proposals to reintroduce blue badge access on Castlegate, the creation of new blue badge parking bays in the city centre, and improvements to public realm such as dropped kerbs and access routes which are designed in collaboration with disability groups.
The decision has been made to recruit an Access Officer and Green councillors are urging the council to engage with disabled groups in the recruitment process for this, including in drawing up the job description and participating in the appointment process.
We expect the access officer to regularly review how the blue badge parking and other measures to improve accessibility are working and propose measures to improve these.
There were over 1400 pages of documentation behind the decision:
- Agenda Supplement – Recommendations and comments from CCSMC
- Agenda Supplement 2 – Officer Response to CCSMC Recommendations, and Legal Advice
You can watch the full video of the decision session where the meeting was held
Full list of mitigations
Further actions to improve disability access overall and compensate as far as possible for the loss of vehicle access to the central pedestrianised streets include:
• Appointment of an Access Officer who will set up and support an Access Forum as well as working with others to implement the Action Plan.
• Implementing additional blue badge parking around the edges of the footstreets area, including the provision of locations with quite a number of spaces together to improve availability. Continue exploring options for additional locations for bays.
• Removing one smaller street on the edge of the area (Castlegate) from its proposed inclusion as a new part of the footstreets, meaning it will become available after the temporary measures finish (Sept 2022) for blue badge parking providing closer access on that side of the central area.
• £250k to fund disabled access routes from the edge of centre car parks (note whilst this doesn’t meet everyone’s needs it is very helpful for many and came from disability groups as an ask – this work to be co-designed with disability groups.
• Funding for works to generally improve public realm in the city – dropped kerbs, paving and seating at regular intervals.
• Work with disability groups to produce a York Standard for streets and public realm in the context of access and disability.
• Progressing work to co-design with disability groups and trial a city centre shuttle that would take people from edge of the pedestrian area to locations in the footstreets
• A renewed contract to support Dial-a Ride (£100k+) and funding for new minibuses.
• Explore the possibilities with Tier (e-scooter and e-bikes scheme) to add mobility aids/scooters to their offer from locations around the city centre/adjacent to blue badge parking.
• Continue exploring the option for cycles as a mobility aid to be allowed in the pedestrianised footstreets.
• Improved information and access to disabled toilets both council and private.
• Improve information and awareness of blue badge parking and services.
• Work with the Quality Bus Partnership and disability groups to improve the experience of public transport for disabled people – the largest single means of access to the city centre for disabled people.