York St Sampson’s Center in Blue Badge ban change campaign

STAFF and regulars at a York community center are backing calls for the city’s ban on blue badge holders to be reversed.

York’s St Sampson’s Center staff say many people have had to stop visiting the center in Church Street, since the city council removed parking access, and stopped allowing taxis to drop people off, leading to isolation and the loss of a cherished social connection.

Rich Whittaker, manager of the centre, which particularly supports over-60s, said it was now supporting the Reverse The Ban campaign, the latest effort to overturn the council’s decision.

He said: “We used to have disabled parking spaces outside the centre, and others quite nearby in the city centre, and losing those has had a big impact. People have been ringing us asking if there are any other parking options nearby, and saying they can’t come to us anymore because of the ban. It has had a real knock-on effect, and is not working for people.

“It’s not just that the council has removed the parking spaces and drop-off. They have also allowed pavements to become so populated with tables and chairs now, so people keep having to deviate from their route, stepping on to roads and past obstacles. It’s becoming harder and harder for people to access the city, and they feel it’s dangerous now so have stopped coming.

“It feels that in allowing all the pavement cafes, the council is trying to cram as many people as possible into the city centre, but they are excluding people who need to get in and now can’t.

“People are desperate to come back to us here. It’s somewhere people meet friends, and we are an affordable cafe with a big space and lots of support available. People used to come in from all over York, including from villages that don’t have many facilities at all, so we’re a really important connection point.”

Until last winter, disabled people with a blue badge were exempt from the ban on vehicles in the city centre, enabling people who cannot walk far or for whom the car is essential for other reasons to still access central shops, cafes and vital services.

Mr Whittaker said customers and staff had been filling in Reverse The Ban postcards that are being collected widely to be delivered to the council after the summer.

Staff are working with other organisations, including York Older People’s Assembly.

He said: “The council should consider people who might be coming into York from elsewhere too. York will end up getting a bad name for itself. The MPs have already raised it in Parliament and lots of people are talking about this as a point of injustice.”

Reverse The Ban is a coalition of York’s disability and age-related and allied organisations, which came together after the ban was imposed with the aim of getting it overturned. It started with 16 organizations and now has 27.

Marilyn Crawshaw from York Human Rights City Network, a member organisation, said: “This is the biggest human rights issue facing our city today; blue badge holders need access to the city centre. The response to our postcard campaign from residents and visitors has been amazing.”

Councilors voted unanimously last November to permanently prevent disabled parking in pedestrianized areas to allow anti-terror defenses to be installed, insisting the move was essential as part of efforts to protect visitors and shoppers from terrorism.

A spokesperson said in April that the decision had been ‘complex and difficult,’ and the council recognized its duties to create a safe, accessible and thriving city centre, and protect the lives of residents and visitors.

They said the National Threat level was currently at Substantial, meaning that a terrorist attack was likely, and it was essential that vehicular access to the city center was kept to an absolute minimum to ensure the effectiveness of security measures.

However, they said the council was introducing a series of mitigation measures, including dropped kerbs, the employment of an access officer and a feasibility study into an accessible shuttle service.

They said additional badge parking had been provided on the edge of the center and more was being proposed.

Reverse The Ban postcards are available at various places across the city and from reversethebanyork@gmail.com

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