Pilot to make pathways ‘disabled-friendly’ too ‘Maidenhead-centric’, councillor says

Local Democracy Reporter James Bagley

Pilot to make pathways ‘disabled-friendly’ too ‘Maidenhead-centric’, councillor says

A rural councillor has accused a pilot which upgrades pathways to be ‘disabled-friendly’ of being “Maidenhead-centric”.

Volunteers on the ‘walk for all’ working group gave members on the local access forum on Thursday, December 2, an update on the survey work on six pathways that could be upgraded for it to be more accessible for disabled people and cyclists.

These routes identified include Battlemead Common, The Green Way, Ockwell’s Park and Thrift Wood, Cock Marsh in Cookham, Thames at Boulter’s, and Thames at Old Windsor.

The six areas are part of a pilot scheme where the next step is to get the Royal Borough to help find external support to map out the routes and to publish all the survey work on the RBWM Together website.

But Ascot and Sunninghill councillor Julian Sharpe said the residents outside Maidenhead ‘would not benefit’ from this, citing this programme was meant to be a borough-wide initiative.

Cllr Sharpe also said the forum needs to be “more inclusive” and parish councils in rural areas outside the town would show ‘little interest’ if they are only presented with Maidenhead schemes.

He said: “It doesn’t feel like this a committee or a group which deals with issues across the borough. It feels very much like a Maidenhead-centric thing and again, it’s been demonstrated with this.”

Working group member Steven Gillions reiterated they are starting small as it is a pilot, and it could be rolled out to other parts of the borough if it is deemed successful.

The chairman of the forum, Hurley parish councillor Geoff Priest, said Cllr Sharpe “missed the point” of the scheme, adding parish council’s in the north of the borough have expressed interest in the project, whereas those in the south didn’t.

Meanwhile, vice-chair Lisa Hughes, who is also part of the working group, said: “I can only live where I live, councillor. I am a disabled person with voluntary work in other areas, so I don’t have the capabilities of driving around Sunninghill, Sunningdale, Runneymede, Datchet, looking for footpaths.

“We rely on information that we are given. I don’t really understand how you think we’re going to be able to have this knowledge and that’s why we have a forum where people bring ideas and some of us volunteer to take things forward.

“I’m feeling really quite personally attacked here.”

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