Make Our Pavements Safe & Accessible
By Dr Barbara Gibson, Parliamentary Candidate for Welwyn Hatfield and County Councillor for Haldens Division
Although maintaining pavements and footways is the responsibility of the County Council, years of neglect and underfunding by the Conservative-controlled Council has resulted in footways that are particularly unsafe for residents with mobility or vision problems.
The Council’s annual Highways works plan rarely includes any resurfacing of pavements at all, so most work that is done for pedestrians must come out of the very small Highways Locality Budgets administered by each County Councillor. The problem is that it’s nowhere near enough to ever catch up with the miles and miles of buckled, pitted, unsafe pavement.
Twice in the last month I’ve gone out with local residents, they on mobility scooter or wheelchair, me armed with a camera, to document the hazards on the route between home and local shops. The bumps, dips and breaks represent trip hazards for those on foot but also present barriers and dangers to those using mobility scooters or wheelchairs. And the lack of dropped kerbs on key routes is appalling.
Where I find these problems, I do what I can, reporting dangerous hazards for urgent repair, and funding resurfacing or dropped kerbs in other cases (until the money runs out, all too quickly). But it’s not enough. This problem needs real attention, and real investment across all of Welwyn Hatfield and the rest of Hertfordshire. Pavements are every bit as important as roads, and pedestrian safety and full access for the disabled needs to become a priority. I’m calling on the County Council to take the following action:
- Designate an officer with responsibility for advocating for disability access issues across all departments and set up a mechanism for reporting problems and raising issues.
- Carry out a review of footways across the county and identify all that don’t provide safe disability access. Prioritise routes from homes to shops, schools, bus stops and other vital community services. I want a list
- As a matter of urgency, invest to bring existing footways up to a safe and accessible standard. The best way to do this, I believe, is with significant increase to the Highways Locality Budgets, so that Councillors have the resources to address the problems in their divisions.
- Ensure that all new development meets these standards
Over the coming weeks I’ll be collecting petition signatures and gathering evidence and stories from local residents through a series of coffee mornings. The first is set for Wednesday, 24 October, 10:00 to 11:30 at Haldens Sports & Social Club.
Sign up below to help me fight for safe and accessible pavements.