Hundreds sign up to access fight

HUNDREDS of people have put pen to paper to improve access to shops in Kirkhill.

Currently, elderly, disabled and less-mobile members of the community struggle to enter stores at Abbey Meadows because of the steepness of steps at the front of premises there.

But now determined traders and villagers have decided enough is enough and are calling for something to be done to tackle the issue.

A petition, which states that a raised access or ramp would benefit those who currently struggle to access the amenities, has attracted close to 250 signatures and has been handed in to Northumberland County Council.

The authority has said it will look into the matter.

Staff at Health Hut Pharmacy and Diagnostics kicked off the petition.

Pharmacy assistant Fiona Campbell said: “Our shop needs to be accessible for people who are not as fit and healthy as they should be, but they have got a large step to get in and out of the pharmacy and a lot of people won’t come in as they can’t manage the step.

“We launched the petition to see if there was anything that could be done to make it more accessible for elderly and disabled people, but when we heard that someone had tripped coming out of the newsagents we thought it was better to extend it along the whole row.”

Simply Food and Drinks Manager Judith Kelly is all for the petition and improved access.

She said that steps up to some of the shops are about eight-inches high and despite hers being half that size, she still has to help some people through the door.

The petition was handed in during the county council’s North Area Committee meeting in Alnwick last week.

Coun Andrew Tebbutt, ward member for Morpeth Kirkhill, said there was an access issue, but told members that making the steps DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) compliant would create a major hazard as they would stick out.

He added: “There is a real problem here. That is why there is a petition to ask highways to look at this and come up with a compromised solution.”

After the meeting, a county council spokeswoman said that the authority will write to the lead petitioner later this week with details about the next stage of the process, which will be to consider the information and to produce a report.