Martin Higgitt report about city centre access

Helen has been reading a lot of reports about the footstreets and she wanted to tell us about one in particular, the Martin Higgitt Associates report which includes some sensible ways forward and some interesting data. We read it so you don’t have to!

It’s a long post, so we’ve recorded an audio version too:

Audio version of the blog post

Cast your minds back to early summer when you may have been in a workshop about city centre access. Yes, I know, there were a lot of them! But the one I want you to remember was run by Martin Higgitt Associates (MHA). In case you don’t remember, or maybe you didn’t attend because you had better things to do with your time (I don’t blame you), MHA were commissioned by City of York Council. They were asked to look at access to the city centre for disabled people and cyclists. This was with a view to identifying appropriate access arrangements and measures that could be put in place to improve access.

Well, they did that and the report they did has just been made public. It’s got a lot of information in it as they were asked to look at access for disabled people and cycling.

I wanted to draw your attention to some of the really interesting points it makes. I will also include the page number in case you do want to read it in full yourself.

In the UK there are approximately 14.1 million disabled people (p13-14) including:

  • 9 million people are deaf or have some level of hearing loss;
  • 2 million are blind or partially sighted;
  • 1 million have a learning disability;
  • 500,000 people regularly use a wheelchair
  • Around 25% of the population are neurodivergent
  • One in four people experience a mental health issue at some point in their lives
  • A quarter of all families have a relative who is disabled.
  • In the UK, disabled people including elderly individuals have a disposable income of £249 billion (the purple pound).

“The new arrangements mean that blue badge parking is only available at the periphery of the footstreets area. Whilst the reduction in motor vehicles benefits many city centre users, including disabled users, it causes extreme difficulty for certain disabled users who are reliant on their own car for independent
access. The total quantity of blue badge parking spaces available has also declined, despite City of York Council (CYC) expanding disabled provision in some of the car parks.” p7

There is some detailed data about distances from parking, drop off points, taxi points and bus stops to key destinations in York (p34-37). Whilst looking at these, please keep in mind that many Blue Badge holders can’t walk more than 50m and if you can walk more than 80m, you probably won’t be eligible for a Blue Badge.

If you can walk up to 50mIf you can walk up to 100mIf you can walk up to 150m
From offstreet parkingYou reach no key destinationYou reach no key destinationYou reach no key destination
From current onstreet parking
(on the edges of footstreets)
You can get from Duncombe Place to York MinsterYou can get from Piccadilly to Parliament StreetYou can get from St Andrewgate to Barnitts or from Deangate/Duncombe Place to Stonegate/Petergate
From taxi pointsYou can reach no key destinationYou can get from Duncombe Place to York Minster, and St Saviourgate to BarnittsYou can get from Duncombe Place to St Helen’s Square or Exhibition Square to York Minster
From bus stops You can reach no key destination You can reach no key destinationYou can get from Low Ousegate to WHSmiths, or Piccadily to Parliament Street

For context about how the changes have taken away access for Blue Badge holders, before the changes about 74% of the footstreets area was accessible within 150m. Now, about 70% of the footstreets zone is beyond 150m from any accessible parking. And 150m is far more than many Blue Badge holders can actually walk (p38,39).

“People who used to use blue badge parking in the footstreets consider its removal to be ‘devastating’ and stopping them from visiting and using their city centre.” (p51)

“People are ‘bemused’ about the perceived large range and number of vehicles that have an exemption for accessing the city centre during footstreet hours whilst blue badge holders do not.” (p52)

“Regarding onstreet parking: The lost spaces in the footstreets have not been adequately compensated with spaces elsewhere. Shared designations with loading does not work. The 3-hour time limit is too short now that the parking is more remote from the centre.” (p52)

“Nobody can expect ‘unfettered access’ to a historic environment with so many demands on it – everybody coming into the centre of York has to compromise.
But the current situation is that many older and disabled people do not have reasonable access to the city centre” (p65)

“When the HVMS comes into place, there will be secure bollards placed at the entrances and exits to footstreets and a city control room will regulate access via CCTV to authorised vehicles or to drivers carrying a permit (e.g. shopfitters who have applied for a waiver). It is considered ineffective to monitor blue badges in this way, given the ease with which people could present a forged blue badge. An alternative would be to require potential users to register a
vehicle for a permit in the same way as shopfitters. CYC considers this impractical due to the potential numbers of blue badges and the fact that it would tie blue badge holders to one vehicle. A further alternative would be to have a staffed entry barrier, in the same way that Chester allows blue badge access to a route through its pedestrian priority zone, though this would incur significant ongoing cost.” (p71)

“The advisory speed limit of 10mph should be better advertised at entries to the footstreets. Where vehicles are applying for permits to enter the footstreets during operational hours, a code of conduct could be promoted on driving considerately and below the advisory 10mph limit.” (p72)

“Loading should not be allowed in dedicated blue badge parking bays during footstreet hours and this needs to be enforced.” (p78)

“Accessible taxis should be allowed access to a limited number of footstreets during footstreet operational hours for transporting blue badge holders.” (p84)

As a short term measure “reinstate access to blue badge holders to parts of the city centre (e.g. Goodramgate & Church St, with exit via St Andrewgate.)” (p94)

In recommendations for Goodramgate, they note “very few retailers have spilt out onto the street since vehicle access was removed.” (p105)

“Despite having 11 disabled bays and housing Shopmobility, Coppergate is not liked by most as some disabled drivers struggle with the difficult maneouvering up the ramps to the car park and others have higher or longer vehicles that cannot access the multi-storey. There is also anxiety about whether the lifts will work.” (p131)

Martin Higgitt Associates report (PDF)

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