A government minister has raised concerns over City of York Council’s approach to city centre access during a parliamentary debate.
Lee Rowley, the minister for levelling up, housing and communities, told the House of Commons: “I hope that the city of York is listening tonight, that it has heard the concerns and comments that have been articulated, and that it will consider very carefully how to approach the matter in future.”
He was responding in a debate on York’s security measures and access for disabled people, brought by city MP Rachael Maskell.
She told MPs: “The centre of York is a special place. It is one that my community really values, with its amenities and services, its heritage, and its friendships.
“Imagine someone being told that they are no longer allowed entrance. Why? Because they are a disabled person. Disabled not by the debilitative impairment that they have learned to live with, but ‘dis-abled’ because the new security barriers prevent them using the blue badge access on which they depend.
“We had these debates decades ago, resulting in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.
“We understand the social model of disability, which is about the barriers – in this case, literally barriers – that prevent people from living their life without detriment.
“People are now locked out of their city not because they have an impairment, but because of intransigence within the local authority.
“I understand risk and I want my city to be safe for all who enter. Mitigation must be proportionate and effective. But let us be clear: disabled people are not terrorists, yet they are the ones being excluded.”
The York Central Labour MP criticised the council for its lack of consultation with disabled residents. She also set out her alternative vision for what a new approach could look like, with consultation and co-production to find a solution offering security and access for all.
Mr Rowley said: “The fact that the subject had to be raised in this place tonight is indicative of the level of concern that has been expressed on both sides of the house about the challenges facing the city of York.”
He said councils were “responsible for ensuring that their actions are within the law. They are accountable to local people for their decisions, and indeed for their performance.
“There is no specific requirement for local authorities to use bollards; it is for each council to decide the most appropriate way to resolve these challenges.”
The minister described the blue badge scheme as “a lifeline for many disabled people.
“Personally, I would strongly encourage the city of York to think carefully about reconciling the understandable challenges with which it has to grapple, which we all recognise with an approach that meets the rights of disabled people in the way she outlined.
There is always a balance to be struck between protecting the public and not unduly imposing on the rights and freedoms of disabled residents, blue badge holders or the wider public who need to park in the city for essential reasons.”