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York’s anti-terror measures make centre a ‘no go zone’ for disabled people | York


Disability rights campaigners are planning a legal challenge against York council after it voted to ban blue badge parking on key streets in the city centre.

York Accessibility Action (YAA), an organisation founded by disabled York residents and carers, said the city has become a “no go zone” for many disabled people and there was now no suitable parking within 150 metres of the city centre.

They believe that the council’s unanimous vote to stop disabled parking in pedestrianised areas to make way for the installation of terror defences is in breach of the Equality Act 2010 and the human rights of disabled residents and visitors.

They have instructed a disability discrimination lawyer and are exploring whether they have a case for a judicial review.

On Friday they launched a crowdfunding campaign to help cover their legal fees and quickly raised almost half of their £5,000 target.

A parking ban was first brought in the summer of 2020 during the pandemic to increase space for social distancing on the streets around York Minster.

But on Thursday the council voted to make the ban permanent, despite objections from disabled residents and campaigners.

Alison Hume, a member of YAA whose son Edward Mitten, 22, has autism and complex disabilities, accused the council of discrimination and of “permanently excluding” disabled people from the city.

She said it is not only a parking issue, but also an issue for disabled people who take taxis and for those for whom their cars can double as safe spaces, cafes and toilets when they are outside their homes.

Hume, who spoke at Thursday’s meeting, said: “The council are not listening to us when we tell them about the misery inflicted on disabled residents and their families … Maybe they will listen to us if we can prove they have discriminated against disabled people.”

She said that many disabled people are avoiding York all together if they can because, she said, “it’s become a no go zone”.

The group said that all attempts at communication with the council had failed to come to a meaningful outcome and that they had been left with no choice but to seek legal action.

Natasha Rawnsley, blue badge holder and a member of YAA, said she hasn’t been able to get into York since last autumn, saying it has become “impossible”.

A spokesperson for the city council said: “The council has a duty to protect the lives of residents and visitors, but we know that doing so as effectively as the police advise will have a significant impact on some blue badge holders.”

The spokesperson added: “Proposals to improve access across the city include reintroducing blue badge access and parking on Castlegate from September, and investing in additional blue badge parking bays in the city centre.

“We have also committed to improve footways and access to toilets, install benches, create a new Access Officer role to lead on future access work, and explore the potential for an electric shuttle bus to help disabled people get into and around the city centre.

“We know that these measures will make a difference for many blue badge holders in the city and we will continue to engage with residents and partners on these issues.”

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