City centre streets that have been pedestrianised under coronavirus rules could remain traffic-free until September 2021.
And some of the roads may be permanently closed to vehicles.
But campaigners say the move means disabled residents are being shut out of their own city.
City of York Council says it has worked with disability groups to find a solution by creating more blue badge bays – but campaigners say the changes do not go far enough and that disabled people will still struggle to visit the city centre.
Alison Hume, whose 21-year-old son Edward Mitten has Pallister Killian syndrome and autistic spectrum disorder, said: “The frenzied closure of streets has polarised opinion in York since the summer, but one thing is certain, disabled citizens are being shut out of their own city – not just for the next 10 months but permanently.
“The council is hell bent on using the emergency powers granted to them under Covid to firmly close the city centre to people with visible and invisible disabilities.”
She said the city hasn’t not created enough disabled parking bays in the city centre, instead encouraging blue badge holders to exercise their legal right to park on double yellow lines for up to three hours.
“They then shut the majority of the city centre streets used for disabled parking. The council cannot have their cake and eat it.
“Until they have created dozens of new spaces through imaginative use of land and office parking no longer being used, they should reopen the footstreets closed in the summer.”
Fossgate to reopen
The council tried to lessen the impact of road closures by creating more blue badge parking bays and offering a free taxi service between Monk Bar car park and St Andrewgate – which campaigners say was underused and “patronising”.
But the free taxi service will be scrapped next month and 30 of the 40 extra disabled parking spaces removed.
Under the plans, only Goodramgate will be reopened to traffic – between Monk Bar to Deangate and College Green – to provide more parking for some of the city’s 7,500 blue badge holders.
Fossgate will reopen in September 2021 – after a survey found the closure of the street was unpopular with residents, who say they have problems driving to and from their homes, and businesses, who say the change has caused problems with deliveries and customer numbers.
But the council will look to permanently pedestrianise these streets:
- Blake Street
- Church Street
- Goodramgate (between Deangate and King’s Square)
- King’s Square
- and St Helen’s Square.
These busy streets also need barriers to protect them from potential terror attacks involving vehicles,a council report says, adding that closing them permanently is a step towards installing ‘hostile vehicle measures’.
The streets will remain closed between 10.30am and 8pm – except when businesses are closed due to coronavirus restrictions when the streets will be closed until 5pm.
The council has outlined plans to help blue badge holders by
- creating four more disabled bays at Bootham Row car park
- advertising existing blue badge spaces on Goodramgate and St Andrewgate
- allowing disabled people to cycle on pedestrian streets and
- creating an app with information about York’s disabled facilities.
Protect large crowds
The street closures have helped businesses open pavement cafes as they try to recover from the challenges of the pandemic, a report for senior councillors says.
It adds that there has been “extensive engagement” with disabled residents and that there is “broad support” from the city overall for the road closures.
Cllr Andy D’Agorne said: “We responded to government guidance in June to support re-opening of businesses and advised blue badge holders that we would consult widely on longer term arrangements.
“The extensive engagement which followed has shown us that there is a difficult balance to find. While the benefits of the footstreets are felt by many disabled residents and businesses, we understand the negative impact on others.
“We are looking for solutions which offer space for businesses to recover, protecting jobs, with improved and more varied options for Blue Badge parking.
“When we no longer need to protect the people in our city centre from coronavirus, we will have to protect the large crowds which will return from the very different threat of terrorism. It is right that we look now at the long-term footstreets arrangements as part of that protection.”
The report will be discussed at a council meeting next Thursday at 5.30pm.