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Disability charity blasts vandals who damaged paths at Testwood Lakes

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A SAILING charity which helps people with disabilities and learning difficulties has been targeted by vandals who damaged special access paths.

Testwood Lakes Sailability (TLS) is based within the building of the 4th New Forest North (Eling) Sea Scouts headquarters at Testwood Lakes in Totton.

Trustee Phil Rawdon told the A&T vandals had first struck in July and then again this month after repairs had been made.

The charity provides sailing for people with learning difficulties and physical disabilities (50073783)
The charity provides sailing for people with learning difficulties and physical disabilities (50073783)

He said: "Some weeks ago TLS had a section of path improved to make it safer for people using wheeled walkers and wheelchairs to access the pontoon. This path consists of a plastic grid filled with stones because it had to fit in with the surroundings.

"[In July] some of the plastic grid was removed and a witness described the person seen with one of the grids as a young person. We had it repaired at no cost to us by Joe Dovey, who laid the original path.

The path was ripped up (50073874)
The path was ripped up (50073874)

"But sometime between 2nd and 5th August they have done it again. There are two parts of the path that have been damaged with a total of six grids being removed."

Phil said he wanted to publicise the damage to raise awareness of the problems the group is facing.

He said: "This path is specifically to make access to the pontoon by wheelchair and wheeled walker users easier and safer. We are a small group trying hard to get going again after Covid-19 and this is not what we need."

He said the group needed to prevent further damage, but were restricted on what materials they could use at the site.

TLS was launched in 2016 after many years of fundraising for a wheelchair accessible pontoon. It offers the experience of sailing with a mixture of specially adapted dinghies, as well as the use of a wheelchair hoist.

The 55-hectare site has three lakes. It is owned by Southern Water and managed by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.

As reported in the A&T, earlier this year police vowed to be “more proactive and more robust” in tackling people who cause trouble at the beauty spot.

The pledge came a year after a spate of anti-social behaviour prompted the town’s neighbourhood policing team to enforce a Section 35 dispersal order to force people to leave Testwood Lakes. It followed trouble which included boats owned by the Sea Scouts being taken without permission, with one of them sunk.

Under the powers, they could force people to leave the area for at least 48 hours, warning that those breaching the order could be arrested and prosecuted.

Anyone with information about the damaged paths should contact police on 101.

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