By Christopher Copland
York Civic Trust organised a local election transport hustings on 24 April 2023. The four political parties were represented by Paul Doughty (Conservative), Andrew D’Agorne (Green), Pete Kilbane (Labour) and Stephen Fenton (Liberal Democrat). Here are a few of the points made in response to three specific topics: congestion, the outer ring road and the blue badge ban.
So, in relation to the congestion, it’s certainly one of our greatest problems. Improving public transport and the cycling and walking infrastructure are key to reducing dependency, as is considering how the planning system in future ensures there are adequate local facilities and that all new major developments include shops, schools, surgeries, employment opportunities.
Congestion is only one side of the coin. The biggest challenge is actually providing those attractive alternatives that we’ve been talking about. Our local plan developments, including York Central, give us a real opportunity for that blank canvas to create those 15- or 20-minute neighbourhoods, with everything within the walking, cycling, wheeling distance of the new residents in that area. And on the question about the congestion charge, or other means of raising funds for the infrastructure, the incoming administration should actually commission a study to look at where that funding should come from, and the pros and cons of whatever mechanism.
All congestion is – is too many vehicles in too small a space at a particular time. So, we can’t widen the space, we live in a mediaeval city, unless we actually take out some of the vehicles. In 2019, Labour took a motion through Council to remove all non-essential journeys from the city centre and for that plan to be ready in 2023. Absolutely no sign of that plan. All we’ve had is talking for the last 4 years. If we’re elected, we’ll have a year to get a plan in place for when the new mayor arrives that
will actually reduce car use by 20%. Charging is not something that we’re looking at doing. I feel it is actually just pricing poor people off the roads and opening up to rich people.
We talked about making alternatives (to driving) more attractive. We talked about how do we prioritise that investment. And someone mentioned the local cycling and walking infrastructure plan, and that’s been quite a refreshing approach. There’s been a database, and it’s looked at a number of issues such as major centres of employment, but it’s also looked at social deprivation as well. We feel congestion charging will punish (the poor) and those people who need to drive to access the
Dualling the Outer Ring Road
The Conservative group’s aim is to keep you moving. We will press ahead with much needed upgrades to the A1237 ring road with a focus on improving journey times, and we will reverse some city road closures which we feel contribute to more congestion and pollution to other routes.
In terms of the Ring Road, if we do dual the Ring Road, which will cause a lot of chaos in the process, then I do think we’re making life harder for ourselves. But certainly, we should use that as an opportunity to remove through traffic if that’s possible.
Outer Ring Road – Labour supports the dualling of it so long as it comes with top-grade travel infrastructure. At the moment the plans actually cut off villages and don’t really promote active travel. And once you cross the Ring Road, you’ve got to have a safe segregated route down the main arterial road into the city, otherwise people aren’t going to use it.
Outer Ring Road aligned with measures within the ring roads. Yes, the two have to go hand in hand, and I think the Council has some very powerful modelling software which I would really like to see in action. So, some of the potential interventions could be modelled, and then we could have an informed discussion about them.
Access to the city centre for blue badge holders
We will reverse blue badge restrictions, protect disabled parking spaces and ensure all spaces in Castle Car Park are replaced before it’s closed. Otherwise, we won’t support its closure.
The Green group is currently arguing for a review, in co-production with the access officer and disability groups, into whether one or more access routes into the core footstreets could be provided once new, remotely controlled bollards are installed as well.
Everybody should be able to access the centre and all the services the city centre offers, and that includes disabled people and blue badge holders. In terms of the council meeting its duties under the Public Sector Equality Act, no they’re not. If you are disabled, it’s a protected characteristic under the Equality Act and the Council has stopped you accessing goods and services in the city.