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Shutting the gate on access to New Milton beauty spot

Disabled people have had problems accessing Ballard Lake
Disabled people have had problems accessing Ballard Lake

SPECIAL walks for people with learning difficulties, dementia and other disabilities may be cancelled if problems accessing a New Milton beauty spot are not solved soon, town councillors were warned.

Colin Townsend, who leads the New Milton Wellbeing Walks on behalf of Community First New Forest, told the town’s amenities committee that gates at Ballard Lake were causing great difficulty, with one walker having recently become stuck.

Complaining the gates were not large enough, Mr Townsend (pictured left) stressed accessibility was particularly important for people from groups such as Mencap who regularly take part in the walks.

He and his colleagues on the scheme had been calling for action since May, he said, hoping for a resolution before the winter sets in.

“This either means we can’t do the walk or it gets done before the winter,” Mr Townsend told the committee.

“We also could do with some benches along there as many of the people we go with can’t walk all that well, so they need to be able to take regular rest breaks.”

Terry Antill, from the New Milton Men’s Shed group, told the committee they would be happy to work on improving the access points between Ballard Lakes and Ballard Water Meadows. These include kissing gates, which he said were too small, preventing some people from getting through.

However, Mr Antill stressed the group would need to receive an official request from the town council to carry out the work.

“Otherwise we would look like a bunch of yobbos going in with saws and hammers, which is what we accuse some young people of doing,” he said.

“Some of the gates are far too small. We need the instruction to do something because this is local authority land.”

Responding to the concerns raised, amenities chairman Cllr Geoffrey Blunden said this was the first he had heard of them. But he sought to assure

Mr Townsend that the committee would endeavour to resolve any issues with access to the site.

“If something needs to be done, I don’t see any problem with getting it done,” he said.

Speaking as representative for the Bashley ward, which incorporates the site, Cllr Steve Clarke said he had heard of a problem with the some of the gates there.

“They were meant to be disability-friendly, but that seems not to be the case,” he said.

“If they are no longer compliant, we need to address that.”

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