A sign painted on a concrete wall reads 'everyone is welcome'

Statement Presented to the Council on City Centre Access

Today we spoke at a meeting of the Executive of City of York Council on the future of the extended footstreets, or the pedestrianised areas of York city centre. Below is the statement we delivered. The full meeting can be watched on the council’s webcasts page. The future of the footstreets is agenda item 7.

The meeting of the Executive was to consider the proposals put forward by the council to continue the Traffic Regulation Order put into place on the 15th June 2020. The Traffic Regulation Order revokes the Blue Badge exemption from Blake Street, Church Street, Colliergate, Goodramgate, Kings Square,
Lendal and St Helen’s Square.

The recommendations put forward by the council can be found here. The Executive members voted overwhelmingly in favour of continuing to remove the access that disabled people once had to the city centre. The councillors who voted in favour of the motion were:

  • Councillor Andy D’Agorne – Deputy Leader of the Council, Executive Member for Transport and Leader of the Green Group
  • Councillor Darryl Smalley – Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Communities
  • Councillor Keith Orrell – Executive Member for Children, Young People and Education
  • Councillor Paula Widowson – Executive Member for Environment and Climate Change
  • Councillor Denise Craghill – Executive Member for Housing and Safer Neighbourhoods
  • Councillor Andrew Waller – Executive Member for Economy and Strategic Planning
  • Councillor Keith Aspden – Leader of the Council- Policy, Strategy and Partnerships
  • Councillor Ian Cuthbertson – Executive Member without Portfolio
  • Councillor Carol Runciman – Executive Member for Health and Adult Social Care
  • Councillor Nigel Ayre – Executive Member for Finance and Performance

York Disability Rights Forum statement to the Executive

We’ve been involved in the consultation process and are grateful that the team carrying out the consultation have worked closely with us. We believe the results are a good representation of the views of those we know to have been involved.

We would like to acknowledge that you have carried out this consultation, even though it was after the changes were implemented. That being said, your own findings evidence clear discrimination against disabled people. In light of this, to continue with the measures would be in clear violation of the Equality Act 2010.

As today’s decision is not being made using Covid 19 emergency powers, you have an undoubted legal responsibility to provide objective justification for any discrimination you cause and consider to be indirect discrimination. This is required for both the continuation of the Traffic Regulation Order which removes the parking exemption for Blue Badge Holders and the restriction of disabled vehicle access to the footstreets. Furthermore, to rely on the objective justification defence, you must show that the continuation of these measures is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. You must demonstrate what the aim is and show that the consequences of this decision don’t have a disproportionate effect on people with a legally protected characteristic or that you have provided suitable mitigations to remove the effect.

Based on the irrefutable evidence you have collected, you can no longer claim to be unaware of the significant negative impact of the footstreet extensions on disabled people. It is clear from your findings that the mitigations proposed by the council to the Executive do not reduce this impact and cannot be considered adequate reasonable adjustments.

The council has a duty to mitigate the significant disadvantages imposed upon disabled people. Therefore, if you continue these discriminatory closures without an array of suitable mitigations in place, you are opening yourself up for legal action.

Whatever decision is made, please note that we will be continuing to monitor the council and keep you accountable to disabled people who live, work, shop, eat out and pay taxes in York.

We strongly urge you to read and consider what you have written in York’s Equality Strategy, and I would like to finish by reading from it a direct quote:

“… everyone should have an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents. This means removing societal barriers in the city so that everyone can be involved and feels welcome, for example ensuring community spaces and workplaces are accessible for people who use a wheelchair.”

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