York Council Denies Claims of Legal Challenge to Lendal Bridge Closure
6:25pm 24th September 2013
City of York Council has denied it could be open to a legal challenge over the trial closure of Lendal Bridge.
Opposition Lib Dems said the closure could be challenged in court, as the decision to close the bridge was taken before an assessment of the impact it would have on disabled people in the city was completed.
The assessment was only completed on the 12th September, two weeks after the closure started and months after the decision was originally taken in May.
Cllr Nigel Ayre, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Heworth Without, commented:
"A full assessment should have been carried out prior to the Cabinet meeting in May when the decision to close Lendal Bridge was taken. Having asked for a copy on the 6th of September I was finally presented a report dated 12th September. This was after the decision, after the closure started, and crucially only written after I had asked for a copy.”
Cllr Lynn Jeffries, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Westfield and Group spokesperson for Equalities, commented:
"The Labour Council has a moral as well as a legal duty to ensure that its policies do not negatively impact on the most vulnerable in York. By not carrying out an assessment before taking the decision to close Lendal Bridge it failed in this duty.
"The Council broke its own guidelines and this calls into question whether the decision to close Lendal Bridge was actually legal under the 2010 Equality Act. After the cuts in social care, reduction in accessible parking spaces, banning of blue badge holders from the city- centre and abolition of the cross-party equalities working group, this once again shows Labour's complete disregard for the welfare of the vulnerable in our society.
“This decision will have a huge impact on disabled residents. Labour Cabinet Members celebrated the opening of West Offices last week, but have ignored the fact that the Lendal Bridge closure means vulnerable residents using the accessible parking spaces at West Offices have seen their journey times tripled at a stroke."
The city council has now defended itself against the claims, stating that guidance from the government says that the assessments are "best practice" and not a legal requirement.
Darren Richardson, Director of City and Environmental Services at City of York Council, said: "When Cabinet made its decision in May the broad approach to the trial was known but the detail of the scheme and exactly how the Order would be drafted, what vehicles would be exempt, how the scheme would operate was still to be determined. The Community Impact Assessment was looked at in August, when details of the scheme were still in development. This was then updated in September. As this is a trial it is an ongoing process of updating a CIA as data and evidence becomes available."
“The purpose of the trial and consultation is to determine the outcomes, which are not clear or possible to predict prior to the point of running the trial. Blue badge holders have not been treated any differently from other car drivers. The consultation for the trial will help determine whether that is an appropriate way forward and can be viewed at www.york.gov.uk/citycentreimprovements “
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