DISABILITY campaigners from across York gathered to call on the city council to restore access to the city centre for blue badge holders.

City of York Council has come under sustained criticism from people who say restrictions on blue badge parking introduced following the extension of footstreet areas during lockdown have effectively left people with mobility issues unable to get into the city centre.

A decision on whether to permanently remove the exemption which allows holders to use a number of streets between 10.30am and 5pm will be made next month.

Jane Burton, chairperson of the lawyers with disabilities division of The Law Society, said at a meeting held to scrutinise the proposals: “It is clear that under the law that disabled people are not being given the protection they are due here in York.

“These temporary measures have taken away the dignity and independence of at least 7,500 blue badge holders in the city.”

Diane Rowarth, from York Sight Loss Council, said: “These losses, created through emergency powers in a pandemic situation, should not be made permanent –  they unlawfully discriminate against disabled people.”

The changes were proposed to help struggling businesses, while making York’s city centre streets safer and more pleasant.

The council has introduced measures to mitigate the effects of the changes, including more blue badge parking on the edges of the city centre, but most holders feel these are too far away for them to access the centre.

Helen Jones, from York Disability Rights Forum, said she had heard many stories of people unable to go about their normal lives due to the changes. 

She added: “It might seem like a small issue if you aren’t affected but if you are it is an incredibly big, emotional issue and it is taking away people’s lives.

Scott Jobson, chief executive of MySight York: “We’re talking about real people and I feel quite a deep shame that a proposal to treat people like this is going ahead.”

Paul Gready, from the York Human Rights City Network, added: “I do feel that the damage in terms of human rights, and more broadly in terms of the social justice profile of this city, will be very significant if some of the voices around this table are not heard.”

The council’s executive will have the final say on November 18.