The popular walkway between the back of the Town Hall and Bridge Street has been shut by Peterborough City Council due to the Covid pandemic, although the authority is planning to make the closure permanent.
However, members of a city disability forum said not being able to access the arcade was causing real difficulty for people with limited mobility, both due to the extra distance required to access Bridge Street from disabled parking spots and ‘obstacles’ such as hoardings which have even caused an accident.
Speaking during a meeting of the forum which has been established by PCVS (Peterborough Council for Voluntary Service), Karen Oldale, Friends and Service Users lead at St George’s Hydrotherapy Pool, said the distance to reach one end of St Peter’s Arcade from the other had increased by nearly 400m due to people having to go all the way down St Peter’s Road, then onto Bourges Boulevard before heading back up Bridge Street.
To put that into context, a person receiving Personal Independence Payment will struggle to walk 20m.
Moreover, the only fully accessible toilets in the city centre are located at the Car Haven Car Park, a place which is now harder to reach due to the closure of the arcade.
Ms Oldale told the meeting: “Cutting that off is adding a considerable amount of difficulty and length to the journey for people that have difficulty walking.
“The current situation is stopping people from going into the city. It’s a real deterrent not being able to access a toilet, because apart from those ones are there any other public disabled toilets available?”
Michelle King, chief executive at charity Little Miracles, said: “We had a lady who tried it in a wheelchair with her child, and her child’s wheelchair fell off the side of the path because where the barrier is, there is not enough space to pass. Her child fell off the kerb.
“It’s the only changing places toilet in the city centre that I know of, and to not have access is causing a major issue for all of our members. It’s been raised quite a few times by different people.
“Toilets are a bugbear for our users. We talk about it so often. My boy is 13, I have to carry him and lay him on the floor. It’s not acceptable.
“That’s my experience, and who knows how many other people are having that experience. Other people are reporting the same issue.”
Should the closure of St Peter’s Arcade be made permanent, council cabinet member for waste, street scene and the environment Cllr Marco Cereste has promised that new blue badge spaces will be provided which will be closer to the city centre.
He also previously told the Peterborough Telegraph that research has shown people who go through the walkway end up heading into Queensgate rather than visiting shops near the Bourges Boulevard crossing on Bridge Street, an issue he wants to address.
There are currently more than 8,400 blue badge holders in Peterborough.