Plans being considered by the City of York Council to ban blue badge holders from parking in the historic walled city could breach the Human Rights Act, according to an opposition councillor.
BBC News reports that Councillor Aisling Musson said that, despite the city declaring itself the first human rights city in 2017, the local authority has displayed a ‘fundamental’ misunderstanding of human rights, and added that the council’s plans were likely in breach of its own equality duties.
According to the plans, the council intends to remove the exemption provided to blue badge holders that allowed them to park in the city’s footstreets. The move was initially introduced as a temporary measure to allow for social distancing and pavement cafes last year.
However, a report due to be presented to the council has recommended that the parking ban be adopted permanently.
Campaigners say the restrictions would ‘remove many people’s dignity and independence’.
The City of York Council said that the move would allow for the implementation of counter-terrorism measures aimed at reducing the danger of a ‘hostile vehicle’ attack.
The proposed changes would mean blue badge holders cannot access footstreets between 10.30 am and 8 pm until the end of the year, to coincide with the Christmas markets, and between 10.30 am and 7 pm from January 2022.
Labour councillors tried to force a delay in the decision-making process at a four-and-a-half-hour scrutiny meeting on Monday night but were outvoted by Liberal Democrat members.
Committee chair Jonny Crawshaw said today on social media that the proposals were ‘wrong’.
The council commissioned an independent report by sustainable travel consultancy Martin Higgitt Associates as part of the process.
The core recommendations of the report stated that blue badge access should remain until improvements have been made throughout the city centre and that a north-south two-way cycle route
should be constructed through the city centre were rejected by councillors.
A report published last month by the York Human Rights City Network also called on the council to reinstate the blue badge exemption.
Cllr Katie Lomas, who is also a blue badge holder, said: “This plan is disabling people and there is nothing in the report to mitigate against that – it is exactly the opposite of what is required of public bodies in law.”
The plans have attracted widespread opposition from campaigners and advocacy groups.
Helen Jones, from the York Disability Rights Forum, said COVID measures were being used as a ‘trojan horse’, adding that the changes would be ‘devastating’ for disabled people.
Mick Phythian, of York Accessibility Action, said: “What the exclusion of Blue Badge holders from a further section of the city’s streets means, as officers and councillors have been repeatedly reminded, is that they are depriving disabled people of their independence and thus the ability to play an equal part in everyday life.”
Counter-terror police have advised the council that in the longer term they want to see all vehicles except blue light services banned from the city’s footstreets.
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