The council is set to move ahead with controversial plans to permanently ban blue badge holders from driving on pedestrianised city centre streets during the day.
But disabled people and accessibility campaigners have hit out at the plans – with one resident accusing City of York Council of creating a “segregated, privileged, ableist” city centre.
Another campaigner feared the council’s use of data to justify the move was pitting certain groups of disabled people against one another – such as council surveys using responses from disabled people who have blue badges and those who do not.
But the council has outlined plans to increase blue badge bays across the city – including extra spaces in Blake Street, Deangate, Duncombe Place, Lord Mayor’s Walk, St Leonard’s Place and Stonebow.
And Cllr Andy D’Agorne called for extra measures including shuttle services, improved shopmobility schemes which offer mobility scooters and wheelchairs, and improved access routes to priority car parks with blue badge spaces.
The council expanded York’s city centre pedestrian zone and hours at the start of the pandemic. Blue badge holders used to be allowed to drive in certain pedestrianised streets – but the council banned access during the day, allowing bollards and barriers to be installed.
The council is now planning to make a traffic regulation order to make this permanent.
Rose Drew, speaking at a transport meeting, said: “The removal of blue badge holders access to the city centre has created a segregated, privileged, ableist space. Segregation creates prejudice.
“The reason for blue badges to even exist is to enable disabled motorists or their passengers to get as near to their destination as possible in as short a time as possible. Age, illness or injury. We all become disabled eventually.
“No council members making this decision deal with overt physical impairment.”
Anne Norton, speaking on behalf of York Disability Rights Forum, said: “We continue to hear weekly from people affected by the changes, the devastating impact it has on their day to day lives, their quality of living, feeling of belonging and social lives has been horrific to hear about.
“The people who have contacted us represent all ages, from young people wanting to meet their friends to older people wanting to access support or get to the central post office and other amenities they have always accessed.
“We are concerned by the way data and statistics are being used to position certain groups of disabled people in opposition to each other.”
But she said the group welcomed the council’s work to engage with disabled people on the issue and the plans for extra blue badge parking bays.
Cllr Rachel Melly also raised concerns about blue badge access but said there have been benefits for businesses and residents who can get into the city centre.
She said the council needs to go “so much further” to help disabled people access the city, warning that otherwise people are at risk of being “further marginalised”.
The council will apply for traffic orders for the changes and people can have their say on the applications.
Cllr D’Agorne said: “We do recognise that disabilities are very wide ranging and these changes have very different impacts on disabled people. Some blind and partially-sighted people have felt a lot safer but some with limited mobility have been disadvantaged.
“As with all things the council has to balance and mitigate the differing needs of individuals.”
Blue badge holders can have their say on city centre access in the council’s consultation here.
The council will now advertise plans to change the city centre traffic regulation order to remove the exemption for blue badge holders to access the pedestrianised zone during pedestrian hours.
It will also advertise plans to create new blue badge parking bays in areas on the outskirts of the pedestrian zone.
Residents will be able to have their say on the proposals once they are advertised.