Keep paths clear for wheelchair users, says Burgess Hill resident

A disabled man from Burgess Hill is calling for action to keep pavements in the town clear for wheelchair users and people with other mobility issues.

Wednesday, 1st September 2021, 3:57 pm
Updated Thursday, 2nd September 2021, 8:36 am

Don Rosewell, 64, uses an electric wheelchair and said his route to Burgess Hill town centre goes via London Road and several smaller streets nearby.

But he said his path is often blocked by parked cars, wheelie bins, branches and cut grass.

Don, who has a spinal issue, a serious heart condition and has had some toes amputated, said he has encountered problems leaving his house ever since the lockdown was lifted.

Don Rosewell is having problems using his wheelchair on pavements around Burgess Hill. Picture: Steve Robards, SR2108312.

“Cars were parked across road junctions, pavements and dropped kerbs,” he said, adding that refuse bins were also blocking the way for wheelchair users and people with buggies.

When he got to London Road, Don said there were ‘pavements covered in debris’, which included branches and cut grass that had been left there.

There were also cracks in the pavements, he said, adding that these could be obscured by the cut grass.

This, he said, increases the likelihood of one of his wheels going into a ‘pothole’, which has happened to him before.

Don Rosewell is having problems using his wheelchair on pavements around Burgess Hill. Picture: Steve Robards, SR2108312.

“My wheel went straight down it,” said Don who was ‘nearly tipped out’ of his chair.

Don added that there are overgrown suckers and saplings at the bases of trees on both sides London Road, which makes using the pavement either side difficult.

“All it would take is someone to just cut those things back,” he said.

Bushes and branches had been left to grow out too far from some residential properties as well, he said, and urged residents to trim their trees or hedges.

Don Rosewell is having problems using his wheelchair on pavements around Burgess Hill. Picture: Steve Robards, SR2108312.

“My wife Susan was literally walking ahead of me to move the brambles so I could go through,” said Don.

“A wheelchair like the one I’ve got is electric and has to be controlled with one hand”, he said.

“In my self-propelled one you have to use both hands so you can’t move things out of the way.”

Don said that if he cannot go along a section of pavement, he has no choice but to go back to find a dropped kerb so he can use the road.

But on one occasion when he did this Don said a passing motorist shouted expletives at him.

“I had my wife with me and I was taken aback,” he said, adding that it makes him angry when there are so many obstructions to get around.

Don has tried alternative routes to the town centre, with London Road being ‘unavoidable’, but said there are problems on every one.

He said he has emailed the local councils about the issues as well as his MP.

In the meantime, Don would like residents to keep wheelie bins and cars off of the pavement and to trim back their hedges if they are overgrown.

He added that he is also blind in one eye and said roughly 15 per cent of the world’s population have some kind of disability.

His upright electric wheelchair is not a ‘robust’ mobility scooter either, said Don, because it has to fit in the boot of his wife’s car.

“I don’t want to have to go and buy a huge great vehicle to put one of those things in,” he said.

Responding to Don’s comment, a spokesperson from West Sussex County Council said: “We sympathise about the problems caused by motorists selfishly parking on pavements and welcome efforts to highlight this as an issue.

“It can cause serious problems for people with restricted mobility, the visually impaired, parents with pushchairs, and so on, and can also block access for the emergency services.

“If vehicles are causing an obstruction, preventing access for emergency services, or parked on the pavement so pedestrians cannot get past without putting themselves in danger, or blocking driveways so someone cannot exit their property, this can be reported to Sussex Police using the non-emergency number 101, or by emailing the local policing team.

“If there are waiting restrictions in the road, such as yellow lines, the vehicle can be reported to Mid Sussex District Council and a Penalty Charge Notice may be issued. Waiting restrictions on roads also apply to the adjacent pavement. However, the district council will not be able to intervene in cases where there are no waiting restrictions, or if it is private land.”

The West Sussex County Council spokesperson said that footpaths are inspected regularly and that WSCC appreciates residents’ help in reporting problems directly to the Highways team, either online or by phone.

“The growth around the bottom of tree trunks (epicormic shoots) on highways land is managed through a routine, county-wide programme involving about 3,000 trees,” the spokesperson said.

“We welcome residents highlighting issues by reporting this online.

“We also rely on home-owners trimming back their privately-owned hedges and overgrown vegetation before growth starts to narrow pavements.”

A spokesperson for Mid Sussex District Council added: “I sympathise with the difficulties Mr Rosewell is facing and I urge all our residents to support those with disabilities, and parents with pushchairs, by keeping pavements clear whenever possible.

“We ask that people leave their bins at the edge of their property ready for collection and we actively engage with any residents who leave their bins on the pavement outside of collection day; particularly if they block pedestrian access.”