Expense puts block on footpath solution

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RAISING a footpath to provide better access to Morpeth shops would be too expensive, council officers have said.

Some members of the community struggle to access the shops in Abbey Meadows in the Kirkhill area of the town due to the steep steps at the front of the premises.

There are two blocks of sheltered housing nearby and many elderly residents struggle to get to the shops, which are inaccessible for wheelchair users and difficult for parents with pushchairs.

A petition, launched by staff at Health Hut Pharmacy and Diagnostics, calling for action to resolve the problems collected close to 250 signatures.

But in a report to last Thursday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s North Area Committee, officers explained that the option of raising the footpath was not feasible at the current time.

The report stated: “From a highways point of view, the only real potential solution would be to raise the existing flagged footpath to the same level as shop entrances. This would have huge implications financially as major works would be required.”

It adds: “This is not an option at the present time given the current financial climate and huge scale of works needed.”

Another possible solution is to provide external ramps outside each shop, but such improvements would be the responsibility of the building owners.

Under the Equality Act 2010, service providers have to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people in the way they deliver their services.

Nadeem Shah, from Health Hut Pharmacy and Diagnostics, said that before discussing the financial or technical implications, people need to consider how it will affect the fabric of community.

Coun Andrew Tebbutt, ward member for Morpeth Kirkhill, said: “It really is a community and this is the problem. It serves a very valuable community.

“It does show how we have changed in terms of planning regulations because no planning authority worth its salt would allow such a structure now.”

The major footpath scheme will be put on the Register of Requests Database for consideration in future works programmes.

Meanwhile, Coun Tebbutt will have further meetings to discuss the possible way forward to improve the situation, involving the shops. Castle Morpeth Disability Association will also be contacted for advice.