Pool of funding for disabled access across Harrogate more than doubled

Jackie Snape Chief Executive of Disability Action Yorkshire (Centre)
Jackie Snape Chief Executive of Disability Action Yorkshire (Centre)

Calls from disability forums have resulted in a pool of funds more than doubling to improve accessibility across the district.

North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) has approved plans to increase the amount of money available for bidding through its Local Accessibility Fund from £35,000 to £75,000 next year.

Harrogate based Disability Action Yorkshire has applauded the move and said they hope the increase could present more opportunities to further improve disabled access by deterring drivers from parking and blocking access to pavements.

Jackie Snape Chief Executive of Disability Action Yorkshire said: "We very much welcome the increase to the Local Accessibility Fund and would be pleased to inform members thinking on the issues that face disabled people with regards to safe access on the highways.

"Dropped kerbs are hugely important but there are more things that could be done. Parking on pavements causes great difficulties for many disabled people, not only wheelchair users but also those with limited mobility and visual impairments. Could NYCC use some of this fund to prosecute ‘pavement parkers’ or at least provide signage in the worst areas reminding people not to park on the pavement – this would be a reasonably low cost solution.

"Anything that facilitates better and safer access for disabled people is to be applauded."

She added: "It would be good if they asked us about what is needed and we would be willing to be called on to help with this.

"For instance more dropped kerbs on Claro Road would make a real difference, its where our own care home is. There are 21 people living there and there is only one nearby."

The Local Accessibility Fund was originally started in 2013 as a source of funding for bidders who can evidence how streets could be improved for people with disabilities, health issues and parents with children in prams or buggies.

County council documents show disability forums' calling for improvements such as safer pedestrian crossing facilities, which included signals for the visually impaired to know when it is safe to cross.

Before approval was given the £35,000 available had been prioritised for 14 dropped kerbs across the county, however the demand for these and more expensive improvements such as safer crossings was resulting in bidding for 2018 reaching as high as £75,000.

NYCC have said they hope the decision to increase the funding will also help them continue working with disability forums to direct support where it is most needed.

A spokesperson for the council said: "The increase has come following feedback from North Yorkshire disability forums about the need to improve street level accessibility for those with mobility difficulties. For example, in 2016 Selby District Disability Forum undertook a street audit that identified 21 locations in Selby town where dropped crossings were required.

"The County Council has always been keen to develop a better understanding of the improvements disability groups would like us to make. We are keen to work with disability groups to try to provide improvements that they have told us are useful. We don’t assume that in instances like this we always know best.

"We are glad that disability groups are taking an interest and we are engaging with disability forums. For example, our Assistant Director for Highways and Transportation will meet North Yorkshire Disability Forum next month.

"This action supports the County Council’s equality objective to “take opportunities, where it is proportionate to do so, to improve physical accessibility around towns."