North Yorkshire Police have confirmed there was no specific terrorism threat to York – despite the prospect of a hostile vehicle attack being the main justification for banning blue badge holders from large parts of York city centre.
And the revelation has led to disabled campaigners to slam £1.8m plans to install permanent bollards across the city centre as ‘a pointless waste of money’.
Flick Williams of York Accessibility Action (YAA) told City of York Council’s housing and community safety policy and scrutiny committee last night (Tuesday):
Since deciding to close the footstreets to blue badge holders the administration has hidden behind ‘the police told us to do it’.
No they didn’t. They told you to do a city-wide risk assessment. We have consulted a counter terror expert of our own.
Tom Parker, author of ‘Avoiding the Terrorist Trap’ told us this: Defensive operations are a pointless waste of money – because the threat cascades.
Terrorists will always find the weak link in your armour and shift focus accordingly. So all you do is move the risk geographically.
Later in the meeting, Jane Mowat, the council’s head of community safety, justified the measures, which will be made up of a mixture of fixed and sliding bollards.
We’re well aware that there is no intelligence to suggest that we are any more or less at risk of a hostile vehicle attack.
But this is just one part of a multi agency action plan.
Other cities around us have put permanent measures in place and when that happens, it leaves us more vulnerable – because if you are a hostile looking for somewhere to carry out a terrorist attack, you’re going to look at the area that has got the least visual protection.
The area where the bollards will be installed stretches between the two bridges, Lendal and Ouse, to the Minster, the Co-op end of Colliergate, and the city centre end of Piccadilly.
Before the meeting, Flick Williams said: “Where is the full risk assessment for the whole city, including the bridges, that the council were advised to do by North Yorkshire Police. Have the council, in fact, done one at all?”
YAA, a disabled persons organisation has crowdfunded £10,000 to explore a legal challenge to the council’s decision to exclude blue badge holders and taxis carrying disabled and elderly passengers from the city centre.
YAA co-founder Alison Hume said: ”Disabled residents and visitors to York have not been able to park anywhere near close enough to the city centre since the summer of 2020.
“However, the council continue to issue permits to trade, business and commercial operators which allow them and their vehicles to enter the pedestrian area whenever they want.
“Disabled people, who already have a legally-enforceable permit, otherwise known as a blue badge, are obviously deemed by the council to be driving hostile vehicles and are banned. The whole situation is highly discriminatory, and we hope to prove, illegal.”
However, a consultation on banning all vehicles during footstreet hours – except for emergency vehicles and the Dial & Ride bus – has just ended.
The city’s Labour group has committed to overturn the parking ban on blue badge holders if elected.