HUMAN rights campaigners have blasted the ban on blue badge parking in York’s pedestrian zone, branding it a “defining moment for York as a human rights city”.
Human Rights City Network has told of its “disappointment and dismay” at City of York Council executive committee’s decision to permanently bar disabled people from using their badges to access the city centre’s foot-street areas.
It claims: “This is a defining moment for York as a human rights city.
“The blue badge access issue is by far the most challenging human rights challenge we have faced since the 2017 declaration.
“Parts of the human rights infrastructure in the city, built over the last decade, have failed.”
It said that in July, the network had expressed its deep concerns about the council’s plans over city centre access and, in September, it brought its concerns to the Human Rights and Equalities Board, chaired by the executive member for culture, leisure and communities.
“The board commissioned the network to prepare a report reviewing the law and practice and recommending how the council can best respect the human rights of all when taking complex decisions,” it said.
“The board also agreed to facilitate attempts to co-design solutions to the access issue, through York CVS.
“The network undertook its commission with speed and seriousness. Its report was delivered on time.
“It was ultimately ignored by the council executive, when making its final decision.”
It said the network asked twice for a meeting of the board to be held to consider the report it had commissioned.
It said these requests were rejected and as such, the board was prevented from taking any position on the access question.
“Specifically, we have serious concerns about a number of aspects of the functioning, leadership and credibility of the Human Rights and Equalities Board and its influence within the council and wider community,” it added.
But a council spokesperson said there had been “extensive considerations” and the council had had to make “extremely difficult decisions” in order to create a safe, accessible and thriving city centre.
They said: “The council has a duty to protect the lives of residents and visitors, but we know that doing so as effectively as the police advise will have a significant impact on some blue badge holders.
“We have been listening to and discussing alternative access arrangements with blue badge holders for over two years.
“Proposals to improve access across the city include reintroducing blue badge access and parking on Castlegate from September, and investing in additional blue badge parking bays in the city centre.
“We have also committed to improve footways and access to toilets, install benches, create a new access officer role to lead on future access work, and explore the potential for an electric shuttle bus to help disabled people get into and around the city centre.
“We know that these measures will make a difference for many blue badge holders in the city and we will continue to engage with residents and partners on these issues.”
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