The Executive of the City of York Council has voted to push ahead with restoring access to the city centre for Blue Badge holders.
They will adopt Option 3 although that is against most advice from security experts. The Lib Dems are not happy about this either.
The deputy leader of the Labour group apologised to those who had been excluded.
The three options they discussed were as follows:
Option 1 – Revert to two separate phases of Hostile Vehicle Mitigation (HVM). This would allow the highest risk area focusing on Parliament Street to be emergency/blue light vehicle access only, Blue Badge access could then be permitted to the outer area as it existed immediately prior to the COVID19 Pandemic as this area was defined as a lower risk area by the original risk assessment.
Option 2 – Exclude Blue Badge holders from Blake Street, Lendal, St. Helen’s Square, Goodramgate (between Deangate and King’s Square), Church Street, Kings’ Square and Colliergate.
Option 3 – The Hostile Vehicle Mitigation Measures will continue to operate but Blue Badge access will be permitted to Blake Street, Lendal, St.Helen’s Square, Goodramgate (between Deangate and King’s Square), Church Street, Kings’ Square and Colliergate during pedestrianised hours.
In September YorkMix reported that according to a council report, the idea was that 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 for example.
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”. This would come at increased costs though.
They will start the process and consultation of developing that Anti-Terrorism Traffic Regulation Order and restricted access for some events
You can watch the meeting on the link above
Before the discussion on the issue, Council Leader, Labour’s Claire Douglas made a statement. It was her election pledge to reverse the ban:
“It’s appropriate that I remind both myself and all of the executive members that in coming to a decision about this, we are conducting a risk and rights balancing exercise, we must consider all the advice we’ve been given together with the rights and needs of the public, and must come to a view of what we believe is the right decision to take.
“We must be careful not to disregard advice which we do not like or to give undue weight to advice which we prefer, we must be conscious of the implications of maintaining and changing the current restrictions, balancing the rights of all visitors to the city to go about their lives without the fear of violence, with the right for all visitors and residents to be able to access the city centre in a way which reflects their needs.
“It’s important that we remember when taking our decision that we can come to a different view of where the balance lies to that which another panel might take, providing that our decision is within the range of what can be considered reasonable.”
Lib Dem Leader, Nigel Ayre spoke about his concerns over making changes to access: “It shouldn’t have been made a political football, it was and remains a gravely serious issue.” He said.
“As the advice, the updated advice says, if an attack was to take place in the centre of York on whatever scale, the impact would be considerable.
“The advice letter also goes on to raise problems that we wrestled with previously. And some that we’ve raised in the past few weeks, there’s no clear cut case about how you could stop vehicles accessing the area from being commandeered.
“There’s a very real risk of the use of fraudulent or forgery badges to bypass the system. The possibility of people being used as mules to carry explosive devices past the barrier.
“There’s the issue of tailgating, which has not previously been mentioned, York has a history with moving bollards of people trying to gain access ahead of those with legitimate access.
“There’s the fact that it places a single or possibly two members of staff as the sole arbiters (of access) And one of the key issues that was raised in the terrorism advice was a need for a very clear visible deterrence.”
In the public participation section, Local Democracy Campaigner Gwen Swinburn told councillors: “I have worked in unsafe places, including Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo, where there would be no question that we would follow to the letter, the professional advice on the security from the security experts, the last administration should have followed that they didn’t. And so should you.
“The report (from council officers) does not make clear that, whatever you decide on Blue Badge access, current arrangements allow many other vehicles, waste, post office, your council vehicles, of course, access.
“So there’s plenty of vehicles in there without blue badges. I mean, what’s the point of having this at all?
“There is no point banning Blue Badges when all these other vehicles can litter the streets.
She told the Executive, “If you go ahead, you alone are accountable for the repercussions. doing the exact opposite of what you were advised. I would expect a corporate manslaughter charge if the worst would happen, and it would be deserved.”
Labour says sorry to Blue Badge holders
Councillor Peter Kilbane, Deputy Leader of the Labour Group said: “I would like to start with an apology to everybody who’s been barred from this city by the Liberal Democrats and Green administration, for these past few years.”
“I also pay tribute to all the people in groups who’ve worked tirelessly over the years to get disabled people access to the city centre, the outcome of your campaigns was never guaranteed, and at times, it seemed like an impossible task.”
“However, this evening, we right that that was wrong. And in doing so give you credit, you are true freedom fighters because when we allow the threat of terrorism, to take away the fundamental human rights of our residents and visitors, then terror has won.
“Labour offered that leadership when we pledged to reverse the ban, and the York people voted for it. And today, we deliver on that election pledge another promise fulfilled.”
Disability Rights Campaigner Flick Williams said: “I thank you for keeping your election pledge for recognising the human rights of disabled people and for having the political courage to stand up to the security industrial complex.
“As we move forward, I trust that learning has resulted from the first part of the consultation. Asking disabled people to be complicit in their own exclusion from the Christmas market was a deeply flawed approach to equalities.
“If the city hosts events they should be for all to enjoy, and if not everyone is unable to access them. Perhaps they shouldn’t happen at all.”