CAMPAIGNERS against proposals to restrict blue badge access to York city centre say they are planning non-violent direct action next week aimed at disrupting City of York Council business.

York Equal Access Campaign spokesman Gordon Campbell-Thomas claims the authority has ‘declared war’ on disabled blue badge holders. He plans to chain himself to railings at the entrance to West Offices at 3pm next Wednesday - and says others might join him.

But why are blue badge holders so angry? And what is the council doing to address their concerns?

Here, Rose Drew of the York Equal Access Campaign and York transport boss Andy D’Agorne both have their say...

Rose Drew, York Equal Access Campaign

The world is on fire: I get it. Smog officially kills. But at least 7,500 York blue badge holders who cannot get around any other way are now excluded from our own city centre, based on ideology that segregates blue badge holders.

York’s city centre is the largest, widest pedestrian-only zone in all of England: that’s why Kings Square is a nationally-renowned busking space. But what does widening the pedestrianised zone really mean? It means blue badge holders are excluded, on purpose.


Rose Drew of the York Equal Access Campaign

Rose Drew of the York Equal Access Campaign


Rose Drew

I am disabled with Ehler-Danlos (EDS), which means my joints can move out of place and which led to a spinal fusion; and also by 30 years of under-treated Lyme, which acts like CFS/ME/Long Covid, causing exhaustion, body pain, at times brain fog and difficulty seeing. Years ago I even had a diagnosis of MS, because Lyme can mimic MS.

With EDS and Lyme, it’s hard to walk, sit, stand; my shoulders would pop out if I used a wheelchair. Until I learned to use a bike again, I depended on my car. When Gillygate was closed I was trapped at home; the same when Lendal Bridge was barred. Not all blue badge holders can use bikes. I can’t always use one either. But now that bikes, like cars, are barred from Blake Street/St Helens/Lendal, and Goodramgate/Petergate, I am 100 per cent barred from town. My daughter, who has EDS, but worse, cried for a week, and wants to move.

The council suggests we have items delivered, but aren’t vans also smoggy vehicles? Being trapped at home is bad for mental health and isolates us.

The council says this is to fight global warming, and smog. Yet bike barriers litter York; cycle paths are inconsistent widths, not joined up, and can include kerbs, or vanish completely. It takes 10, even 20 minutes to detour around roads that once took two minutes to travel; smog is merely shifted. We now journey 10 miles to collect a disabled adult and go to large shopping centres, rather than a mile into town.

The council claims its proposals are ‘anti-terrorism’. What car was used in the horrific Arena bombing? Are backpacks and suitcases to be banned?

This is segregation and exclusion: a policy phrased to subtly, constructively exclude. The city centre is now for fit, young people only, at a time when crimes against the disabled are rising.

It is worth remembering that all of us are only temporarily abled. Time renders us elders, or disabled due to injury or illness: unless we drop dead as apparently healthy 35-year-olds.

Many city centre shops don’t even open ’til 10am, and zero are open after 8pm. The excluded person is left feeling badly about being singled out. York does not want you.

This sort of oblivious exclusion is cruel, when so much virtue signalling is devoted to providing ‘disabled access’ to theatres, shops and the (off-limits) Post Office. There is no disabled access if we can’t enter the city centre.

The council is claiming the right to segregate, create barriers, and exclude. York is clearly not a human rights city.

Councillor Andy D’Agorne Executive Member for Transport

Extending the length and hours of pedestrian streets has been central to York’s recovery from COVID. It’s given people confidence to return to York, allowed cafes to keep trading, protected jobs and local businesses, and maintained business confidence in the face of the shift to home working and online shopping.

We now need to understand whether, long-term, these changes are right for York’s residents and communities. The challenge encompasses ALL council duties – from protecting public spaces to promoting the economic viability of the city centre, reducing carbon emissions and ensuring accessibility under the Equalities Act. Our goal is to support an accessible, thriving and safe city centre which continues to provide jobs, services and leisure opportunities for all residents.


City transport bpss Cllr Andy D’Agorne

City transport bpss Cllr Andy D’Agorne


Andy D'Agorne

We need to fully understand the impact, which is why we have been carrying out the most in-depth review of access to the city centre since the pedestrianised footstreets were introduced in the 1980s.

Engagement is at the heart of this review. Our priority has been to fully understand the positive and negative impacts of the footstreets changes. As well as disabled residents, including blue badge holders and disabled people’s organisations, we’ve been talking to cycling groups, couriers, delivery drivers and city centre traders. We’ve published an open brief and all the meeting minutes at Surveys, walkabouts and workshops have allowed us to build a better picture of the diverse needs of York’s residents and businesses.

It is worth remembering what has changed, why, and what we’ve already done to lessen the impact. A year ago we extended the car free areas and the operating hours. This had to be done quickly to meet government guidance, allowing social distancing and to keep many businesses trading.

A total of 123 new pavement café licenses reinforce their importance to York’s recovery from lockdown. Engagement with disabled residents revealed wide appreciation for the benefits of the vehicle-free, wider and smoother surfaces for many disabled people, as well as the negative impact on blue badge parking after 10.30am.

As a result, we reopened Deangate and added extra blue badge parking on the edge of the footstreets, with blue badge holders able to park in locations such as next to the picnic area on College Green, the Minster, Piccadilly and Cliffords Tower.

On top of trying to mitigate the potential loss of blue badge parking, we are also exploring how to improve accessibility throughout the city centre. This includes looking at suggestions on how to make walking/ wheelchair routes more accessible, the timings of the footstreets hours, access for disabled people who use cycles as a mobility aid, improvements to the Shopmobility service, the quality and location of dropped kerbs, and the quality of footpaths, rest points and other facilities.

Throughout engagement with disabled residents, we’re identifying immediate improvements, such as the installation of additional dropped kerbs around pavement cafes to help eliminate barriers that many mobility aid users currently face around pavement cafes. This proposal, as well as increased support for the Shopmobility and dial-a-ride services, will be discussed at the Council’s Executive next week.

There are no easy solutions, but the council continues to listen as we look to make York city centre a thriving, welcoming and accessible space for all.