The authority has said the move will allow for the implemention of counter-terrorism measures aimed at reducing the danger of a “hostile vehicle” attack.
The removal of the Blue Badge exemption on entering the city’s footstreets was introduced when the pandemic hit to allow for social distancing and pavement cafe licences, which provoked strong opposition from disability rights campaigners and human rights groups.
A draft report set to go before the city’s executive on November 18 recommends councillors approve plans to make the changes permanent, except for on Castlegate.
The plans would see the footstreet hours 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. Cars can enter outside of these times.
Out of the people who contacted the council about the changes, 201 were against and five were in favour - with 125 people saying they would boycott York’s shops if the plans are approved.
A submission to the council from an employee of the North East Counter Terrorism police unit backed the council’s plan, stating: “Terrorists plan attacks meticulously and hold no regard to Blue Badge holders.”
A report published last month by the York Human Rights City Network called on the council to reinstate the exemption on entering the footstreets.
Campaigners have told the council the measures “take away the dignity and independence of at least 7,500 Blue Badge holders in the city.”
The council report states that officers “recognise the impact that some holders will be excluded from the footstreets by the recommendations.”
It adds that “having considered that impact it has not been possible to find a way to deliver the safety benefits of the counter terrorism measures without causing the impact to parts of the disabled community.”
The council has already implemented some mitigation measures and is planning more, including additional Blue Badge parking outside the footstreets, more dropped kerbs and the creation of an access officer role on the council, but campaigners have said they will still effectively be cut off from the city centre unless they can park inside it.
The proposals will be discussed by a scrutiny panel this afternoon (Monday).
Coun Andrew Waller, executive member for the economy and strategic planning, said: “These are extremely complex decisions and we are hugely grateful to everyone who has contributed to the discussion.
“We will continue to listen to the varied needs of our residents and businesses, and are working to put in place measures which balance these in a mutually respectful way to as best as possible improve access and create a safe and welcoming city centre, following the feedback we have received.”
Coun Andy D’Agorne, executive member for transport, said: “I look forward to scrutiny constructively supporting this decision-making process, helping us to deliver a safe and accessible city centre with jobs, communities and culture that all our residents can enjoy.”