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Father of daughter who uses wheelchair says Meldreth pavements are ‘tragedy waiting to happen’





A father has said pavements in Meldreth are an “accident waiting to happen” for wheelchair users.

James Reader told Cambridgeshire County Council it was “dangerous” to push his daughter’s wheelchair along the High Street pathway.

He said the “piecemeal repair” over 20 years had created the risk of a wheelchair tipping over, or falling into the road.

The council said it recognised the serious impact defects on pavements could have for wheelchair users.

At a full council meeting on October 17, Mr Reader told councillors that his 18-year-old daughter is living at an educational and residential care home in Meldreth.

When he visits and takes her out, he found pushing the wheelchair along the High Street was “dangerous at best”.

Mr Reader said: “The pothole equivalents and chronic camber towards the roadway are impossible to avoid when pushing our daughter’s wheelchair along the High Street.

“With occasional pavement parking and cars driving within a foot of the kerb, which in places is nearly flush with the road, an accident is simply waiting to happen.

“Any wheelchair-user should be able to safely access the community and I raise a question on behalf of my daughter who cannot talk or communicate with you directly (and all her fellow wheelchair users both at the home and living within the wider community).

“I understand that in practice potholes on the roadway are given priority, both in terms of budget and immediate action.

“I put to you that wheelchair wheels on a pavement that has only seen piecemeal repair over the past 20 years presents an equivalent priority.”

Mr Reader called for the pavement to be resurfaced and the camber reduced so that wheelchairs “are not drawn towards the road”.

He said: “I struggle to believe that this issue is of such long-standing, particularly in a community that hosts a school/home for wheelchair-bound children.

“The council are sitting on a timebomb, waiting for a tragedy to happen, where a wheelchair gets dragged into the roadway and the user hit by an oncoming car, or a wheelchair topples and the fragile user falls to the ground.

“Surely this is reason enough to action immediate repairs and renewals and balance the books in years to come.”

Cllr Alex Beckett (Lib Dem, Queen Edith’s) chair of the highways and transport committee, said he “really sympathised” and said the condition of footpaths was a “challenge” across the country.

He said it was “not actually fair” to say that road defects were prioritised over pavement repairs, and said both had different criteria.

Pavement defects are fixed within either 36 hours, 21 days, or 13 weeks, depending on the severity.

Meldreth’s pavements are inspected every three months, and were last inspected on October 4, when three issues were found, which Cllr Beckett said were due to be fixed by the end of the month.

He revealed that there was a longer-term plan to resurface Meldreth High Street, but said due to budget constraints this may not be for three to five years.

Cllr Beckett said: “As an administration, we very much do recognise that work that needs to be done particularly for more vulnerable active travel users.

“We all know the consequences of a pothole to someone walking, cycling, or wheeling can easily be incredibly serious, or even life threatening.

“It is clear to me that we must consider active travel users and those walking, cycling and wheeling, and making sure that roads are fixed for all of our users.

“As an administration we have commissioned a project to define a maintenance hierarchy for active travel users, reflecting on the fact that the location, or type of defect can have a significant impact on safety.

“I look forward to this coming to highways and transport and hopefully being adopted.”

Cllr Beckett offered to visit Meldreth High Street with Mr Reader, so that he could highlight the issues he wanted to be fixed.



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