COUNCIL chiefs have insisted their ban on Blue Badge holders in York's footstreets is essential as part of efforts to protect visitors and shoppers from terrorism.

City of York Council was responding to criticisms by senior Labour councillors, who said they would reverse the ban if they gain control of the authority at next year's elections.

They also claimed that North Yorkshire Police had confirmed that there was no specific terrorism threat to York and claimed that no local risk assessment was undertaken on the terrorist threat to York when the executive agreed the ban last November.

A council spokesperson said the decision had been 'complex and difficult,' and the council recognised its duties to create a safe, accessible and thriving city centre, and protect the lives of residents and visitors.

"The risk of a hostile vehicle attack in the city centre, has been assessed under the guidance of National and Regional Counter Terrorism Officers and North Yorkshire Police," they said.

"Counter-terrorism experts identified the current ‘footstreets’ area as the most effective perimeter for these measures, with police advising emergency vehicle access only.

"The temporary measures were put in place when the city was busiest, during the Christmas markets.

"The decision allows those temporary measures to be replaced by permanent measures which are less visually intrusive and can be controlled remotely without on-site staffing.

“The National Threat level is currently at Substantial, meaning that a terrorist attack is likely. The city centre was, and continues to be, risk assessed by the Counter Terrorism Task Group and the area identified as most at risk was also assessed under the guidance of the Counter Terrorism Police, which included a national expert.

“In order to ensure the effectiveness of the security measures, it is essential that vehicular access to the city centre is kept to an absolute minimum during the vehicle restricted/pedestrian priority hours.

"In considering this duty, the council has had to consider the Equalities Act and the Human Rights Act duties as the council recognised early on the impact on disabled people by changing blue badge parking arrangements.

"That is why a separate action plan to improve city centre access was approved at the same meeting, including the removal of remaining commercial exemptions for vehicular access (currently progressing through legal process prior to implementation)."