Choice to shut Peterborough’s St Peter’s Arcade as a result of ‘anti-social behaviour’ criticised by disability rights campaigner

Former project development manager at Disability Peterborough, Julie Fernandez, said there was a lack of “empathy” for disabled people who she feared would become increasingly isolated as a result of the proposed change.

Council Chairman Cllr John Holdich told the Peterborough Telegraph last week that rampant antisocial behavior by harsh sleepers was harming businesses and deterring Bridge Street visitors.

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Currently, both disabled and non-disabled users of the Car Haven parking lot, when the arcade is closed, must enter Bridge Street near the Bourges Boulevard intersection instead of taking the shorter route through the sidewalk.

The introduction of more blue badged parking spaces in city centers such as Priestgate has been proposed as an option to encourage disabled shoppers to come to Peterborough.

Ms. Fernandez has been a local and national advocate for the rights of people with disabilities for three decades.

The actress, who appeared on the hit sitcom The Office, believes the city lacks the purple pound that adds £ 249 billion to the economy and that people will likely be elsewhere to do their shopping once the Covid Stop restrictions.

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In a call to the city council to ensure that disabled people are included in its mind if Peterborough “better declines” after the pandemic is over, Ms. Fernandez, who requires the use of a wheelchair, said, “As far as I am I am aware that there are some career beggars in Peterborough but the vast majority of the homeless are people who have had really difficult situations in their lives and have had no choice but to become homeless.

“Where’s the empathy instead of just helping the business world? It’s not acceptable for local businesses, but what about unacceptable for the many thousands of Peterborough disabled people who want to go into town and want to spend money? “

The introduction of more inner city blue ID parking spaces such as Priestgate was suggested as an option to encourage disabled shoppers to Peterborough, but Ms. Fernandez replied, “It is all very well and good to say issuing new blue ID spaces but the blue ID The program has been expanded to include people with hidden disabilities, which means more people have access to them.

“The little blue badge space we have now is like gold dust – we need to offer more places than people can come and support their local community instead of going to Milton Keynes.

“Remember to invest in the business world by encouraging more people to come to Peterborough to shop.”

The council highlighted major cuts in its government grants as funds had to be canceled.

Ms. Fernandez said the pandemic has exposed the strain of mental isolation common to many disabled people who feel unable to visit downtown due to their current arrangement, which includes a lack of curbs.

She added, “Peterborough isn’t the worst place I’ve ever been (for disability access), but it’s not the best place either. Most companies have not been screened for access so they are not as good as they can be.

“I want the council to be more proactive and make sure all companies have an access audit. Set up a committee to make sure this is the case and people do something about it.

“It would also be very useful if companies were trained in equality for people with disabilities. The more comfortable they make disabled people feel that they are using this company. “

Ms. Fernandez responded to comments from Cllr Holdich who said he had received numerous complaints from people about antisocial behavior at the St. Peter arcade.

At that time, the arcade was a hotspot for restless sleepers. The guards were instructed to tell them what support was available and to call the police if there was anti-social behavior.

Cllr Holdich told the PT, “When it was open, we couldn’t keep the handicapped toilet in a decent condition to be used. It was used as a drug den and for all kinds of terrible anti-social behavior.

“We couldn’t get any cleaners in the end – it was horrific.

“There is of course a toilet under the parking lot (parking lot). We will see if we can put handicapped parking anywhere else in Peterborough like Priestgate.

“We have to find a solution to how we can remove these adverse events. People waded and peed through human excrement, (there were) sex and drug deals.

“We owe it to the shopkeepers and visitors and shoppers to keep it safe and decent, and we just couldn’t do that.

“We had a job to help these people move forward – the law is against you.

“If we can get the rough sleepers out, there should be no reason we can’t open them again.

“Women used to be abused and insulted and it really wasn’t nice.”

The Council Chairman added, “The other thing to note is that there are many empty shops on Bridge Street. We need to redesign Bridge Street, if that is the right word.

“In the not too distant future, hundreds of people will be living in the city center. All of these places are being remodeled, be it Clifton House, the corner pound shop, through Marks and Spencer and in Beales so you have lots of people downtown.

“Right now there is good evidence that people are going down there – even though we are in curfew.

“When you park in Car Haven, it’s not much further down Bridge Street than going through the arcade – it’s not a great distance.

“We have many options (for the arcade) and no final decisions have been made. It has been closed for the right reasons and we need to make sure we can open it so that the city is proud of it and people can visit without being abused. “

Recently, city councils approved a motion from Labor and Cooperative Member on behalf of Ravensthorpe Cllr Ed Murphy that the city council’s cabinet “should consider reopening St. Peter’s Arcade and improving access for disabled people to the city center.”

Cabinet said the closure of St. Peter’s Arcade will “benefit” shops on Bridge Street, which are reported to have a higher footprint, while believing the arcade will be “a valuable asset” as part of the city’s recovery plans Our endeavors for café culture could offer space to support ”. It is currently seeking legal advice as it makes plans to permanently close the arcade before addressing groups with disabilities.

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