After living in York for 35 years, Natasha Rawnsley says she now feels as though she’s been been banished from the city she loves.

Natasha, 46, was diagnosed with MS in 2005, and now cannot walk without the help of her rollator, or wheeled walker.

In 2013, she had to give up her job as a lab technician at York University. “But I was at least still able to park close enough to shop and socialise in York using my rollator,” she said.

“I married in 2017 and my husband, Derek, and I would often go into town. Our banks are in the city centre, the shop where we bought our wedding rings is in Petergate. When we were able to park in Goodramgate that was easy to get to. We’d regularly meet family and friends at City Screen for lunch when access was open on Blake St and Lendal. On days when my legs were weak Derek would push me in the wheelchair.”

Then the city council introduced its ban on blue badge parking in the city centre. “We would try to get in and out before 10:30, but that was difficult,” said Natasha, who lives in Heworth.

“We tried the taxi service, parking at Monk Bar. The driver dropped us off at the end of Parliament Street and then Derek and I, using the wheelchair, went as far as St. Sampsons Square for lunch - but decided against going further because we had to call and wait for the taxi to get back to our car. We only used this service twice in 2020. Visiting York became much harder.”

Tragically, Derek passed away in January from pancreatic cancer - leaving Natasha more cut off from the city than ever.

York Press:

Natasha and Derek in happier times

She has a specially-adapted car which she can drive using hand controls - but not being able to park in the city centre means she cannot use it to get into York.

“The designated car parks are too far away,” she said. “On top of all that, suffering with MS sometimes means that I lose control of my bladder. Being able to return to my car quickly and get home would at least minimise embarrassment.

“Access after the shops are closed, be it 7pm or 8pm, is no use - in fact it is an insult to disabled people. I feel as though my city has been stolen from me. I call for the council to reopen York to blue badge holders immediately.”