The Chair to advise the Committee of any items on which members of the public have requested to speak and advise those members of the public present of the details of the Council’s public participation scheme.
For those members of the public who have submitted any questions or statements, please note, a three minute time limit applies to each speaker and you will be asked to speak before Councillors debate the issue.
Temporary measures during the Coronavirus Pandemic
Due to the Government guidance on measures to reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19), we will holding meetings in a virtual manner which will be live webcast on our website. Members of the public will still be able to register to speak and ask questions, which will then be read out by the Governance and Democracy Case Manager during Public Question Time and will either be answered by the Chair of the Committee, or the relevant Portfolio Holder, or be followed up with a written response.
The following member of the public had requested to speak on item 9 on the agenda.
East Street – Accessibility for Disabled & Older People – MRS SUE GLENN
Prior to East Street being closed to Traffic, for those with a Blue Badge there were around 35 parking opportunities throughout the day when you include the general bays and the yellow line parking that Blue Badge holders were permitted to use. A campaign by the Taunton Disability Action Group (TDAG) has resulted in a few additional Blue Badge bays, 2 on an incline in Billet Street which are not suitable for those unable to negotiate the incline, and others in Magdalene Street which are too far away for many, as is the Multi Storey Car Park. The PIP descriptors which automatically qualify disabled people for a blue badge sets the maximum distance that people can walk to be 50 meters and you must consider the return journey within that. There seems to be an opinion among the able bodied that all disabled people can use wheelchairs or mobility scooters, this is not the case.
When I put it to the leader of the council back last year in a Zoom meeting, “can anything stop this? “ she said “no, it’s been a long held desire of the council, one which we inherited” so it would appear the decision has been reached then. Social distancing was, I believe, an excuse used to deliver the pedestrianisation that the public and businesses were previously against, there were other ways to achieve Social Distancing and the Taunton Disability Action Group put several suggestions forward but they were met by a blanket policy of no vehicular access full stop. Further representation by TDAG saw access for Blue Badge parking between 8am – 10am granted, although most businesses don’t open until 9am and is too early for many who live disabled lives to be out and effectively limits when disabled people are allowed to shop, that is not equality.
You may be aware of a very similar scheme introduced by Sadiq Khan which recently lost a High Court challenge after being deemed seriously flawed by a judge (Mrs Justice Lang) who found "It was possible to widen pavements to allow for social distancing, and to allocate more road space to cater for an increase in the number of cyclists, without seeking to 'transform' parts of central London into predominantly car-free zones. "In my judgment, it was both unfair and irrational to introduce such extreme measures, if it was not necessary to do so, when they impacted so adversely on certain sections of the public."
The situation with East Street is that the Council have ignored the provisions of the Equality Act 2010, have removed the accessible parking that allowed many disabled and older people to live independent lives, it is life limiting and life changing and is a sad indictment of the councils attitude towards older and disabled people, the council preferring to make things easier for the fit and active in society at the expense of older and disabled people. Before this situation is allowed to continue or progress, there needs to be a thorough examination, by those qualified in the area of the Equality Act and disability discrimination, of how this situation fits with the provisions of the Equality Act 2010, in order to ensure that the authority can not be found to be discriminating against the protected groups within the act.
as detailed by the Equality & Human Rights Commission.
This can happen when an organisation puts a rule or a policy or a way of doing things in place which has a worse impact on someone with a protected characteristic than someone without one.