BLUE badge holders will be permanently banned from driving into York’s footstreets after a unanimous vote by the city’s top councillors.

Disabled activists warned City of York council’s executive that the move – first introduced to allow for social distancing and pavement cafe licences during lockdown – would see an already disadvantaged group being further discriminated against.

But councillors also heard that a hostile vehicle attack on York was “reasonably foreseeable” and that banning vehicles from the footstreets would help protect the city.

Disability rights group York Accessibility Action is crowdfunding for a legal challenge.

York Press:

Labour’s York Central MP Rachael Maskell said after the meeting on Thursday night that she was “sickened” by the decision.

Fighting back tears, blue badge holder Helen Jones told councillors: “If you vote to make the changes permanent our human rights will be violated.

“I am here to ask if you, on a human-to-human level, are comfortable with excluding me from my city?”

There are around 7,500 blue badge holders in York and the council has acknowledged that some of them will no longer be able to access the footstreets.

Labour councillor and blue badge holder Katie Lomas said: “This means me viewing the city centre as an obstacle I cannot face much of the time.”

Councillors voted to put in place a series of mitigation measures, including dropped kerbs, the employment of an access officer and a feasibility study into an accessible shuttle service.

The blue badge vote paves the way for more vehicles – such as delivery and bullion vans – to be barred from the footstreets and permanent counter-terrorism measures to be installed around the perimeter.  Superintendent Mark Khan, police commander for York, said he had been pushing for hostile vehicle mitigation measures for the city for more than 10 years.

He added: “It’s not so much if a terrorist attack happens but when. It is reasonably foreseeable to see someone coming to York, if there wasn’t any hostile vehicle mitigation, at something like the Christmas market and driving that vehicle to kill as many people as possible.”

Former council leader Ian Gillies, whose daughter and wife have blue badges, said they would lose out while “others can sit in the street in the middle of winter for a cappuccino".

He called for “common sense and decency” and said it was “totally disingenuous to hide behind security advice for what seems to be a blatantly political proposal”.

Councillor Andrew Waller said: “Risk remains high and it is urgent that we install the permanent measures.”

Councillor Darryl Smalley added: “There is no denying that today we are faced with extremely difficult decisions, which none of us are taking lightly, but we must be guided by the advice before us.”

Disability campaigners said more could have been done to find a way to accommodate both anti-terrorism measures and the needs of blue badge holders.

Labour group leader Pete Kilbane said if his party won the 2023 elections they would work to “reopen the city for everyone who lives here”.

Under the new rules, the footstreet hours will run from 10.30am to 8pm until the end of the year, to coincide with the Christmas markets, reducing to 10.30am to 7pm from January 2022.

For more information on blue badge parking visit here