What is the city centre access issue?
A big issue affecting York’s disability community at the moment is around the extended footstreets. Essentially, in June 2020, the footstreets area (or pedestrianised area) was temporarily extended to allow for better social distancing. However, this meant that streets that had previously allowed Blue Badge holders access were now closed to Blue Badge holders. The temporary decision was made permanent on 18th November 2021 by members of the Council Executive – made up of Liberal Democrats and Green Party councillors – despite extensive objections from disabled people and organisations, including York Disability Rights Forum.
There are now over 20 disability- and age-related organisations (including us) and their allies that have come together under a ‘Reverse The Ban’ banner to work together to get this overturned. They are receiving considerable public support. The main route to contact Reverse the Ban is via email, or you can contact us and we’ll put you in touch with them.
The vote by the Council Exectutive means Blue Badge holders can no longer park or be dropped off on the streets in question between 10.30 and 5pm. This is now permanent. Further, they voted to temporarily extend this to 7pm so pavement cafes can continue, and this may soon become permanent.
These streets included Goodramgate, Blake Street and Lendal that previously allowed Blue Badge holders to park close enough to get to important facilities such as cash machines, banks and opticians and places such as Betty’s, Browns and Boyes. Being able to get to cafes, restaurants, cinema and so on allowed for Blue Badge holders to meet up with friends and family and engage in common social activities.
Blue Badge holders can be eligible for a variety of reasons but some key ones include:
- not being able to walk 50 metres or more;
- not being able to walk without help from someone else or using mobility aids;
- walking is very difficult due to pain, breathlessness or the time it takes;
- walking is dangerous to your health and safety;
- if you are constantly a significant risk to yourself or others near vehicles, in traffic or car parks;
- if you struggle severely to plan or follow a journey;
- if you need to be able to quickly return to your vehicle.
These mean that if you can’t park, or be dropped off, close to your destination, you are going to struggle to get to that destination, or may not be able to get there at all. So those shops, restaurants, banks and more are now, often out of reach. They are no longer accessible.
The footstreet area was originally extended (temporarily) to allow for increased social distancing, and then for pavement cafes, and then the council started the process around making the changes permanent. At this stage, the council started saying that it was part of their anti-terrorist measures but this has been challenged robustly by Reverse the Ban and others.
The permanent ban means that all those places Blue Badge holders couldn’t get to temporarily, are now permanently out of reach.
But isn’t York a Human Rights City?
York Human Rights City Network and CYC Human Rights and Equalities Board have both issued statements about the footstreets.
What’s been happening?
Any council decision like this requires a certain degree of consultation, some legal bits and pieces and lots of meetings… This means that it’s a long process and it’s easy to get confused.
To try and help simplify the complicated process, we’ve got some resources:
- Reasons why the council want the footstreet extensions to be made permanent, and our thoughts on the reasons
- A simple timeline of events (last updated September 2021)
- A timeline of our related blog posts
- A much more detailed timeline (last updated September 2021)
- Media coverage on the subject (last updated December 2021)
One of our members shared her thoughts on the footstreet extensions with us: