Disabled access gates have been suggested as a possible way forward to allow wheelchair users to enjoy the Wales Coastal Path.
Members of Flintshire Disability Forum have previously highlighted issues with electric wheelchair users being unable to pass through barriers which were installed to stop anti-social behaviour by motorbike riders.
The group said the large A-frames did not exist in most counties other than Flintshire and had ‘soured’ their view of accessibility in the area.
However, as part of Flintshire Council’s public rights of way review, the authority is now looking to try and improve access to footpaths.
The possibility of installing gates which require a radar key, the same as those used to gain entry to disabled toilets, was suggested at a scrutiny committee meeting in Mold this week.
Outlining the issues, Cllr Carolyn Thomas, cabinet member for streetscene and countryside, said the council needed to find a way to allow wheelchair users onto the path without enabling motorcyclists back onto it.
She said: “I was contacted by a wheelchair user after I mentioned at cabinet that I’d like to make it a priority for people to have access to the coastal path.
“They were concerned if we were going to remove the A-frames because he could actually use them and he was concerned if they were removed it could be opened up to motorbikes.
“We arranged a meeting and I also invited Jan Thomas from Flintshire Disability Forum, as I picked up from Facebook that she had many members who couldn’t access it in their mobility scooters.
“We met at Flint Point and I must say that the A-frames are a bit of an optical illusion as you look at them and think there’s no way you can get through, but everyone who attended was able to get their scooters through.
“It was raised though that if there was a larger person on a larger scooter they might not fit through so it’s an issue we need to look at.”
There are two parts of the coastal path running through Flintshire, with sections from Chester to Flint and Flint to Prestatyn.
According to the Wales Coast Path website, the main accessible route for disabled people is a 7km stretch between Chester and Queensferry.
Council officers said they agreed that the level of access needed to be improved.
Tom Woodall, access and natural environment manager at Flintshire Council, said: “We’ve had a lot of discussions with Flintshire Disability Forum and certain users who find it difficult getting past the barriers.
“We find our position is both legal and appropriate given the issues we’ve had in past, but having a barrier which restricts certain members of the community doesn’t sit well with us.
“Moving forward it could be there are some areas where we can improve the situation.
“At the moment we’re in review and I’d hope to have a consultation in the new year with the barriers.”
The county’s total rights of way currently measure 1,082km, including 955km of footpaths and 114km of bridleways.
Members of the authority’s environment scrutiny committee voted to give their backing to its draft Rights of Way Improvement Plan.
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).