The newly elected Labour council has vowed to look again at a road closure that left a Brighton woman with disabilities imprisoned in her home.
Ann Ingle has been unable to go out since Brighton and Hove City Council removed the two disabled parking bays outside her flat, in Gardner Street, earlier this year.
The Green-led council made the decision last November despite being told that it would prevent Ms Ingle from being able to attend vital medical appointments.
The new Labour leader of the council, Bella Sankey, said: “As the incoming council leader, I have already tasked officers with reviewing the Gardner Street TRO (traffic regulation order) – in particular the impact on this disabled resident.”
Councillor Sankey added: “I want to send a strong message that while we care deeply about increasing walking and cycling around the city, we will never let improvements in these areas come at the expense of the rights of our disabled residents.
“Making our city as accessible as possible must be central to street improvements.”
The decision to remove the existing disabled parking bays was part of wider changes to close the street for most of the day to all except pedestrians and cyclists.
It also meant, for example, that no patient transport ambulances could enter the street during the hours of closure.
Some have also expressed concern that access for any emergency vehicle would be made harder and take longer with barriers at the entrance to the one-way street.
Ms Ingle has complained to the council and said that its actions discriminated against her, breaching her right to respect for her home life and private life under the Human Rights Act.
But she also said that she only wanted the “reasonable adjustments” required in law and was aiming for a practical solution.
She said: “This is not about slagging the council off. I just want them to do the right thing.”
Initially, the council rejected her claim, saying that it had acted in a way that was proportionate – and had “moved” the disabled bays to Regent Street as a “mitigating” measure.
But Ms Ingle, who has lived in Gardner Street for more than 15 years, is unable to use a wheelchair because of her complex and chronic health conditions.
She needs a car to be able to park directly outside her flat to be able to leave her home and return.
It was not a “mitigating” measure to place the nearest disabled parking space further than she is able to reach, she said.
The council closed the road from 11am to 5pm every day of the year when a new traffic regulation order (TRO) came into force in January.
Initially, the council had planned to close the road daily from 11am to 7pm but, after a consultation, it settled on 11am to 5pm.
The road was previously shut to traffic from 10am to 7pm on Saturdays and from 11am to 5pm on Sundays and bank holidays.
When the disabled parking bays were removed, others were added in neighbouring Regent Street but these are too far for Ms Ingle to reach.
Ms Ingle said that the council had so far declined to make reasonable adjustments for her and as a result she had already had to delay important health appointments.
The council first closed the road during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown but concerns arose about the effects of the closure on disabled people who needed to use the road’s two blue badge bays.
The council said that it “moved” those bays to Regent Street – about 100 metres away – but this is further than Ms Ingle and many other blue badge holders can walk.
She told the Disability News Service: “To add insult to injury, the council removed the blue badge spaces completely, so even when the road is open my disability personal assistant can’t legally park up for me so I can use a vehicle.”
As a result, she can no longer leave her home at all as it is no longer legal to park outside it.
The changes have made it almost impossible to attend medical appointments at her doctor’s surgery and at the hospital while also significantly limiting every other aspect of her life.
She has been supported by two dedicated groups – Possability People and BADGE – both of which submitted evidence and spoke about their concerns to the council.
They said that discriminatory nature of the council’s actions raised questions over its supposed wish to improve access for disabled people, with no attempt made to help Ms Ingle or any other disabled residents of Gardner Street.
They told the council: “There are 13,500 disabled people (in Brighton and Hove) who are reliant on their vehicles or wheelchairs as mobility aids.
“By voting for this closure, you will be voting for a scheme which directly discriminates against these disabled residents.”
The council said previously that it was fully aware of the concerns that Ms Ingle had raised.
It had decided, though, after considering the competing considerations carefully, that “to maintain vehicular access for blue badge holders, or indeed any vehicular exemption, would be incompatible with the objectives” of the TROs that it had imposed in Gardner Street.
The benefits of the TROs would include improved access for pedestrians and disabled people, the council said, and the changes would improve air quality and safety.
Ms Ingle said that there was not much moving traffic in Gardner Street before the closure so it would make little difference to air quality.
Possability People chief executive Geraldine Des Moulins told the Disability News Service: “After initial consultations, which Possability People were included in, we thought Brighton and Hove City Council understood the importance of Gardner Street remaining accessible, both for the community and for the disabled resident who lives there.
“We were shocked and dismayed to learn of their proposal to close vehicle access to the street for seven days a week from 11am until 7pm.
“The impact of the closure has had a serious and devastating impact on the disabled resident who lives there which the council have just not acknowledged.
“They have a duty of care to make reasonable adjustments and they haven’t done this.
“We understand the benefits a reduction in car use brings but the ill-thought-out manner in which the council seem to be doing this has raised concerns and fear amongst the disabled community that the city will become completely inaccessible to disabled visitors and, worse still, make disabled residents feel like prisoners in their own homes.”
The council was unable to give a timescale for its review and any possible changes. But given the new leader’s background as a human rights lawyer, Ms Ingle has cause for hope.
She said that whatever the legal arguments, she wanted a solution that was ethically and morally right rather than one that essentially left her permanently stuck in her home.
About time, how is it possible for a Council that’s supposed to be inclusive to not consider disability issues properly? I know lots of disabled people that no longer go to Gardner Street since it’s been closed. It’s become more inaccessible since the beginning of the year, the dropped curbs aren’t very good and often blocked, it’s supposed to not have traffic on – but business vans and scooters seem to get down there. Then disabled people living there can’t get out when they need to and we can’t go in when the shops are open…then removing the Blue Badge spaces completely so we can’t park by the Komedia at night, what’s that about?
It says it all about the last Administration when they ignore their own Equalities Impact Assessment and independent report they commissioned that said closing the street WOULD most affect those with the most severe disabilities. Sort it Labour.
Something smells rotten about the entire closure, why for example take out the bays completely and not have left them so they could of been used out of the closure hours? I hope the new administration can resolve this.
Wasn’t this signed off by Green councillor Davis – now ‘leader’ of the Greens ?
Yes, I’m listening, (not), Steve Davis. Who ignored the EIA and as we can now say from the election hustings some councilors from within his own party. Do not be fooled that he is a ‘reasonable’ Green he gladly aided and assisted Cllr Lloyd in getting this through.
Not only ignored the EIA, apparently the EIA wasn’t even signed off, it was just put straight through
Upgrading the space to a hybrid space, like New Road just a few streets along, could be a possible solution.
This was an appalling decision from the outset and driven by the Greens with wider political objectives. My understanding is that, at the original vote, the Conservative councillors opposed it and Labour councillors abstained, which suggests this only went through as part of a political deal. The issues could not have been clearer from the outset and it was screamingly obvious that the closure of the road and removal of the Blue Badge parking bays would have a seriously detrimental impact on disabled residents reliant on transport from directly outside their homes
Maybe Bella can ask Green councillor Davis why he signed off on the closure scheme
Finally someone with common sense. I hope the review acknowledges the special needs and circumstances of these residents. There are real people suffering needlessly as a consequence of the thoughtless umbrella decisions of a few. Policies should be informed from the grassroots, and all of us should be heard, vulnerable residents the first.
It would be a good move if Bella Sankey restored the disabled parking bays in Gardner St and give a better quality of life to this disabled resident and others… Especially as the previous Labour administration shamefully abstained over their removal, allowing it to go through. The Greens’ prioritised the rights of cyclists (allowed free reign in Gardner St) over those of the disabled and elderly who may also have mobility issues. It should be the other way round.
The Greens had no concern whatsoever regarding the disabled or the elderly. This was clearly shown by the removal of the disabled parking bays and closure of public toilets. Thank goodness they were kicked out once and for all. Let us hope that Bella will make the changes to turn the city back into the pleasant place it used to be for everyone before the Greens made such a mess of it.
As Ms Ingle makes clear in the article, Gardner Street was never a busy road, so banning all traffic in this way is solving an air pollution problem that didn’t exist. And removing the blue badge parking spaces so disabled people can’t access the road even in the evening (and visit the Komedia, for example) is just mean – or more to the point, discriminatory. I really hope the new Labour Council reverses this decision.
Encouraging. Still astonishing, though, that this happened in the first place. What sort of City is this? Clearly not an inclusive one.
1 of many moron green policies that needs fixing sharpish. Any1 in any vehicle with more than 2 wheels were considered scum of the earth. Lol including delivery drivers, disabled, HGVs, ambulances ect ect. Imagine getting a fire truck down there with all those tables in the way. Good luck, but for some reason when they did this road closure the made it a pedestrian road that allowed for cycling… Truly and utterly dumb lol pedestrians shopping and sitting at cafes with bikes riding full tilt into them…
I agree with a prior comment & hope the review acknowledges the special needs & circumstances of residents such as the person mentioned in the article. Furthermore, I hope the tasked officers are given the opportunity to gain comprehensive understanding of why it is utterly necessary for residents who rely upon vehicles as ‘essential mobility aids’, to feel confident of continued access to their essential mobility aid (& all that goes with, for instance, requirements of time & space).
In regards to Gardner Street and related TRO’s, my hope is the new review leads to the development of new or updated ‘workable’ proposals/solutions born from the intent of inclusivity & delivered with tangible impact of inclusivity.
I also hope new & favourable proposals can be achieved and actioned as seamlessly as possible so as to alleviate the many levels of extreme stresses, anxieties, exhaustion & isolation caused by the lead up to & actioning of the TRO’s by the previous Council, & the ongoing fight to achieve workable solutions.
Councillor Bella Sankey, new labour leader of a new Council, offers glimmers of hope for favourable change.
Sadly, there is no workaround for humans who require vehicles as ‘essential mobility aids’, yet I am absolutely sure that a number of great solutions can be found in regards to creating TRO’s that honour the needs of severely disabled residents.
i support Ms Ingle. The council is being at-best absurd. government is the only thing with the power to create or end ableism.
They are supposed to make reasonable adjustments but they’re being unreasonable.
All disabled people have the right to lead full lives. No one – disabled or not – should ever be made to stay home. Yet so many people are.
I’m a disabled Brightonian and I live quite close to Gardner St. It’s ridiculous that the council are responsible for eg our Adult Social Care, but also responsible for so many of the opression we are subect too.