PEOPLE with mobility problems are being denied access to a picturesque walk along the Quoile River in Downpatrick due to the design of access gates, according to a local politician.
Councillor Billy Walker has asked Newry, Mourne and Down Council to look at the design of the gates at the entrance to the riverside walk which runs from the Belfast Road along the banks of the river towards Jane’s Shore at the Old Belfast Road.
He said people on mobility scooters or mums with prams find it extremely difficult to access the riverside walk due to the design of the gates which do not open fully.
Councillor Walker explained the gates are hinged with heavy springs to ensure they cannot be left open as there are cattle in nearby fields which have access to the river to drink water.
“The gates are designed to ensure cattle cannot escape from the fields. While this is important, the gates are preventing those with disability problems from accessing what is a beautiful, peaceful walk and it is an issue local council officials have agreed to look into,” he said.
“I met recently with the council officer in charge of walking routes across the district and am delighted she has taken the concerns I outlined on board. The officer has agreed to investigate what can be done with regard to coming up with a solution that will provide access for those with mobility problems and, at the same time, ensure cattle cannot escape on to a main road.”
Councillor Walker said one man, who relies on a mobility scooter to get about, is anxious to be able to access the riverside walk and hopes this may be possible in the future.
“I fully understand the need for the gates, but maybe someone could come up with an innovative design which would provide people of all abilities with easy access and also ensure cattle cannot escape,” he continued.
“Elderly people would also have problems with the current gates and I hope the design can be changed to accommodate them as well. I am also aware of one young mum whose pram became wedged in the gate.”
Councillor Walker said he fears that if the local authority does not address the access issue, it could contravene disabled access legislation.
He added: “It is important we respect and recognise the needs of those who suffer from mobility problems. I am confident the design of the entrances gates to this popular riverside walk can be amended.”