City centre plans approved despite claims disabled people only an afterthought
Changes to anti-terror proposals will give blue badge holders, taxis carrying them, and their carers controlled access to core streets around the Abbey when they close to vehicles from 10am until 6pm each day.
Bath and North East Somerset Council’s Liberal Democrat administration said the measures struck a balance between accessibility and preventing “unfettered access by unknown vehicles”.
But critics said the compromises do not go far enough and will compound access issues caused by social distancing measures designed to make walking and cycling easier.
In an emotional appeal to cabinet members on 20th July, public speaker Julie Gregory said her life had been ruined by hidden disabilities that mean she cannot stand for long, walk far or use public transport.
“If I can’t park outside I can’t go – end of story,” she said.
“Having been required to shield for most of the last 16 months I was utterly distraught when I went into town to find no access at all for me, with a blue badge. This greatly impacted on my mental health.
“The roads were covertly closed off and pedestrianised, with no real consultation.
“Pedestrianising our city is a disproportionate response to an unlikely terrorist action. We have to live our lives and not live in fear or be held to ransom.”
Susan Charles, the chair of Access Banes, said if the council failed to reach a decision that met the needs of all Bath residents and visitors it would be a “shameful day”.
Opponents branded the original proposals “draconian” for including a 24/7 ban on food and parcel deliveries into the secure zone, with residents required to apply for permits for larger deliveries or scaffolding, and tradespeople forced to park outside and bring their kit in on trolleys.
Accessibility consultants Atkins warned that removing all parking would mean some disabled people “having to endure pain for longer and at higher levels” than some would be able to endure.
Following changes backed by Avon and Somerset Police, core streets around the Abbey will be open to traffic between 6pm and 10am daily, with York Street not reopening until 10pm to allow for the heavier anticipated footfall going to the Clore Centre when it opens.
The new measures will not result in any loss of any parking for residents or blue badge holders. The latter will be allowed to park on Cheap Street, Westgate Street and Upper Borough Walls on double yellow lines for up to three hours, via controlled access.
Conservative group leader Vic Pritchard said the measures would still leave parts of Bath inaccessible for blue badge holders.
He said the £2.7million budget looked “extravagant to a great number of Bathonians” and warned that the costs of the scheme were at risk of “spiralling out of control”.
Council leader Kevin Guy said the costs had gone up to allow disabled people access into the zone “whenever they so wish”.
Cllr Pritchard said that showed the council did not consider disabled people when it first drew up the proposals and they were “an afterthought you need to remedy now”.
Cllr Manda Rigby, the cabinet member for transport, said: “This is not the original proposed 24/7 closure. On the risk continuum, looking at the latest figures for footfall, this seems to be the proportionate response.”
She said access would be granted to blue badge holders, emergency vehicles and residents who need a tradesperson in a hurry, while preventing “unfettered access by unknown vehicles”.
Deputy leader Richard Samuel, the cabinet member for resources, said the costs of the scheme would be kept in check.
Cabinet members unanimously approved the proposals.
Members of the public will be able to comment on the traffic regulation orders when they are published.
Article originally appeared on Bathecho.
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