Dame Judi Dench offers ‘wholehearted support’ to home town’s parking campaign

A campaign to reverse a ban on disabled drivers parking in the historic centre of York has been boosted by an intervention from Dame Judi Dench.

The Oscar-winning York-born star said her experience with sight loss means she knows “only too well” about access problems.

Dame Judi sent her support to the Reverse The Ban campaign, which is fighting to get York Council to reconsider a 2021 measure which stopped the exception for blue badge holders to park in the pedestrianised parts of the city’s famous, ancient centre.

She said: “York city centre is a rare jewel that should be free for all to enjoy, including those with a disability and for whom accessible parking is essential.

“As someone living with sight loss, I know only too well how gaining access to places can be exceptionally difficult.

“York city centre should be fully accessible through these types of schemes.

“I should like to offer my wholehearted support to people in the city of York who are asking the local council to reconsider any ban to the blue badge scheme in the city centre.”

Dame Judi, 88, who has talked publicly about her age-related macular degeneration, is the patron of The Wilberforce Trust, which supports people with visual and hearing impairments.

She was born in York in 1934 and lived in the city until she went to study at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, in London.

York Council removed the right of blue badge holders to park in the pedestrianised areas of the city centre in November 2021, citing the need to install anti-terrorism measures.

Dr Marilyn Crawshaw, of campaign group Reverse the Ban, said: “It’s a great boost to get the support of Dame Judi Dench, someone who was born and raised in York and who understands all too well what banning disabled people from using their Blue Badge to access the city centre means.

“We hope this encourages the Lib Dem-Green coalition that brought this in to stop and think again.”

A spokeswoman from City of York Council said: “We want our historic city to be accessible and inclusive for all.

“York’s cobbles and narrow, medieval streets present challenges to those with mobility issues, whilst large visitor numbers create security risks, which we are working to address to protect all residents and visitors.

“In working to meet our ambitions to deliver a more accessible city for all, we recognise that listening to feedback and the lived experience of disabled residents is very important.

“We will continue to listen and learn, with an ongoing commitment to keep operation of security measures under review.”