Blocked pavements excluding disabled people from Calderdale’s streets

This Press Release is from Hebden Bridge Disability Access Forum, supported by Halifax Society for the Blind and Disability Partnership  Calderdale.

Disabled people in Hebden Bridge and throughout Calderdale are stepping up their campaign for the banning of A boards and other obstructions on our narrow pavements.  Last weekend a disabled person collided with an illegal pavement obstruction in Hebden Bridge.

A Hebden Bridge Disability Access Forum, HBDAF, spokesperson said “We are very pleased that Calderdale Council took swift action to remove this dangerous obstruction, and grateful to the business owner for their immediate co-operation with the enforcement action. However, as well as increased enforcement, what we need is clear, publicised policy from Calderdale Council, so businesses know what is acceptable in advance.  We need a culture of clear pavements, so we do not exclude disabled people from the streets of Hebden Bridge. HBDAF has been corresponding with the leader and deputy leader of Calderdale Council and the head of their Highways department about A boards obstructing pavements, for over two years now.  It really is time that the Council take action.”

Pavement obstructions have increased as businesses use outside space for tables and chairs, to keep customers safe whilst opening up from lockdown.

All pedestrians are affected by pavement obstacles, but especially older people, some autistic people and those with impaired vision or mobility, dementia or learning disabilities.

Pete Hoey, Chief Officer at Halifax Society for the Blind, said “The Royal National Institute of Blind People and the Guide Dogs Association have been warning for some time about reasonable and safe access requiring consideration as businesses and civic life as we emerge from the Pandemic. There are examples of both good and bad practice elsewhere in Calderdale, with safe use of pavements dependent on how aware business owners are. Calderdale Council needs to do more work on reminding local enterprises of the rules and supporting them to improve. After all, Calderdale’s recovery involves everybody being able to manage.”

The problem affects the whole borough. A spokesperson for Accessible Calderdale Disability Access Forum, ACDAF, said “Our members have recently fed back to us some of their barriers they are facing coming out of lockdown.

Through listening to them we know that A Boards and general obstructions on pavements such as wastebins, parked cars, road work improvements and traffic cones, plus café outdoor furniture can be dangerous and be a hazard to disabled people with a wide range of impairments.

Disabled people have told us they lack confidence to leave their houses coming out of lockdown and that they feel there are more barriers now facing them than before.

We are keen to know what the local authority’s policies are and how they are going to implement them with local businesses to improve access in our region.”

Another Calderdale-wide organisation, Disability Partnership Calderdale, added “We urge the Council, and its head of Highways in particular, to address once and for all actions which educate businesses, and the public to think seriously of their actions of using any form of obstruction on the pavements which may impede wheelchair users, pram users, blind and sight impaired people. A workable compromise needs to be found quickly, is our recommendation to allow everyone to feel safe and for business to thrive after these significant lock downs which have affected everyone.”

Many towns in Yorkshire have completely banned, with enforcement, advertising boards on pavements including York, Huddersfield and all of Bradford District. There are other examples in the UK such as Edinburgh. This has very much improved access for pavement users, and there’s no evidence that trade is reduced despite the fears of some traders. In fact, trade may be increased as more people are able to comfortably access the pavements and businesses. 20 per cent of the population are disabled, and they and their families spend £249 billion per year so it is good for business to welcome those people.

When A boards are banned, other advertising is still available, including door and window posters, hanging signs above businesses, adverts on bus shelters and lamp-posts and social media advertising.

HBDAF always welcomes new members, and can be contacted on sechbdisabilityaccess@gmail.com.