Published: 20:36, 14 April 2022
| Updated: 11:02, 19 April 2022
Pedestrians have called new barriers that have been installed along footpaths in South Willesborough a 'monstrosity' and have criticised the lack of disability access.
People with double pushchairs, large bikes and mobility scooters have struggled to get through, often getting stuck and having to find an alternative route.
There are four in total. One at either end of the footpaths at Herbert Road, one across a bridge opposite the outdoor gym and another at the beginning of the footpath near White Willow Close.
They were put in place by Kent County Council (KCC) at the request of South Willesborough and Newtown Community Council (SWAN CC) and Kent Police to stop nuisance motorcyclists that race down paths and tear up the grass in nearby fields.
But SWAN CC says these are not the barriers it asked for and is requesting for them to be corrected immediately.
Tom Roderick, 73, from Bushy Royds, who uses a mobility scooter, now has to drive across grass by a nearby sports pitch as he can no longer get through from Herbert Road, something he won't be able to do when the ground gets muddy.
He said: "I use the paths to get into town nearly every day because if you go the long way round, the roads and the pavements are so bad.
"There was no notification about it, they'd be better off spending the money fixing potholes."
David Tucker, 54, from White Willow Close, who often walks the route said: "When I first saw it I thought, do I walk through it, do I go round it?
"They are a bit of an inconvenience and an eyesore too."
Steve Rowley, 69, said: "It's supposed to stop motorbikes but there is a gate right next to it, they'll just go through there, or the basketball court instead.
"I live on Herbert Road and normally we see mobility scooters go down everyday and we haven't seen many since these were put up."
The first was installed two days ago and ever since, Steve Campkin, ward councillor for Willesborough and co-leader of the Green Party says he has been working with SWAN CC to get them removed.
He said: "They are inappropriate for the situation and are not what was proposed to SWAN CC back in January.
"I have written to the officer in charge asking that they be removed and replaced with something more appropriate and in line with what was originally proposed."
To add to this, Andy Rogers Vice Chair SWAN CC said: "We support this initiative, and the PCSOs who worked extensively to see this implemented to try to reduce the nuisance vehicles.
"This was entirely funded by KCC Highways who took the project forward.
"Thankfully, no SWAN CC funds were wasted.
"However the installation has not supported the design we were consulted on.
"SWAN CC is liaising with KCC as it is extremely concerned for the residents’ who are trying to navigate these barriers, particularly the disabled and also all who will be impacted with the return to school next week, especially those using pushchairs.
"We have been working consistently to look for more connectivity for cycling in the area and this has certainly not supported that.”
Despite the troubles Mr Roderick has faced on his scooter, KCC say an Equalities Impact Assessment was completed.
But Amy Plewnik from Kings Prospect says she has requested to see this information as she is concerned about the barriers obstructing a major route.
The 26-year-old said: "The path is a key location to getting to the supermarket, East Stour Primary School, the parks and basketball court, and is the main route to town, the station and the Designer Outlet.
"Understandably people are upset, there are many better ways to handle the situation than putting up four barriers and causing hassle for people.
"The barriers are a monstrosity. The incompetency of this waste of money and resources is astonishing."
A KCC spokesman said: “Our officers were asked by Kent Police and Ashford Borough Council to look at installing restrictions in this area following complaints of anti-social and dangerous use of the path by motorcycles.
“An Equalities Impact Assessment has been completed to ensure we balance the positive impact of dealing with the nuisance behaviour with any possible additional challenges that may arise for people.
“In this case we have installed a motorcycle restrictor, specifically designed to allow access to mobility scooters, single buggies, and tandem prams as well as bicycles with narrow handlebars.
“The compound to the side is accessible by larger buggies and bicycles with wider handlebars.”