The complexity of the challenge to restore Blue Badge access to York city centre has been laid bare by a new report.
York’s Labour Group has pledged to restore the vehicle access to York’s footstreets for disabled residents that was removed as part of anti-terror security measures.
A report has now put forward three options for councillors to consider.
One is to leave things as they are. That would not be acceptable either to York’s disabled residents who say they have been effectively barred from the city centre by the Blue Badge ban, or to the Labour administration which promised to overturn that ban.
A second option would be to have two different levels of ‘hostile vehicle mitigation’.
“This would allow the highest risk area focusing on Parliament Street to be emergency/blue light vehicle access only,” says the council report
“Blue Badge access could then be permitted to the outer area as it existed immediately prior to the Covid-19 pandemic as the area is a lower risk area, as defined by the original risk assessment.”
According to the report, this option “would take significant time to implement. The other issue is that this option would have significant capital costs of circa £2 million.
“It would also introduce further construction works in the city centre, which like any construction causes disruption to residents and businesses, often with greatest impact on disabled people.”
‘Vulnerable to hijack’
A third option, which may be the most likely to be adopted, would be to restore Blue Badge access into the secure zone on these streets:
- Blake Street
- Church Street
- Goodramgate (between Deangate and King’s Square)
- King’s Square
- St Helen’s Square.
“This is contrary to the previous advice of the Counter Terrorism Policing Teams as it increases risk of terrorist attack,” the report acknowledges.
It goes one: “This is not because Blue Badge holders are terrorists but they themselves and their vehicles become vulnerable to being exploited in a terrorist attack; hijack etc.”
There is also a potential danger of a terrorist ‘tailgating’ a Blue Badge vehicle into the secure zone.
However, the risks “could be reduced with the introduction of an Anti-Terrorism Traffic Regulation Order to give the police powers to remove any access for events or specific risks. Blue Badge access was historically removed for the Christmas Market.”
Staff would be posted at the two entry points, Blake Street and Lendal, to allow Blue Badge holders through. “When officers last spoke to Chester this was the solution they were using to facilitate Blue Badge access,” the report states.
“Bath have a different solution which is a route through the secure area protected by further security bollards.”
This option would also have a significant detrimental impact on York’s burgeoning pavement café culture.
“Should the Blue Badge holders be permitted access, there will be a further impact on pavement cafes.
“It is estimated that 19 businesses who currently have pavement café licences would need to have their café licence withdrawn as the space will be needed to accommodate Blue Badge parking as well as pedestrian and vehicular access in these areas.”
The report warns councillors: “When considering the circumstances as they exist today Executive need to accept that in order to permit Blue Badge access it may not be possible to find a way to deliver the full Counter Terrorism Policing Advice.”
It adds: “Executive will be asked to consider both the right to life and the protection from discrimination. Neither of these duties take precedence and the Executive will need to make a decision proportionately.”
Councillors will have to weigh up a number of issues including:
- the advice from counter terrorism policing and the right to life and duty to protect life;
- the equalities and human rights benefits to Blue Badge holders of restoring access;
- the impact on businesses who will be impacted and may have their pavement café licence removed or reduced.
More than 3,000 people have engaged with a consultation into Blue Badge access.
The report adds: “Once Executive make a decision there will need to be further engagement with Blue Badge holders to understand the impact of the decision and how that decision can best be implemented – and if Blue Badge access is reinstated whether there are changes needed to those pedestrianised streets to facilitate access.”
The report will go to City of York Council’s economy, place, access and transport scrutiny committee on Tuesday, 26 September.
You can read the agenda and papers here.