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Protest held over council's decision to keep beach lifts shut in Broadstairs and Ramsgate

Disabled people have staged a protest accusing council chiefs of ignoring their pleas to reopen beach lifts.

Campaigners claim that, on what is expected to be the hottest day of the year tomorrow, many families won't be able to visit Viking Bay in Broadstairs due to difficulties accessing the sands.

The Viking Bay lift in Broadstairs
The Viking Bay lift in Broadstairs

But Thanet council says it is keeping the lifts in Broadstairs and Ramsgate shut to follow national measures on social distancing and is in talks with insurers on whether they can be opened safely.

Protestors from group Access Thanet warn the delay is disadvantaging people with walking difficulties, in wheelchairs and those with small children in pushchairs.

Chairman Helen Kemp, whose son is in a wheelchair, says the decision to close the lifts was made with no consultation and no signage explaining the decision to the public.

"Despite sending many emails to local councillors and council officers, I haven't received a satisfactory response," she said.

"The only reasons I've been given are problems with Covid, emergency call outs and security issues - but lifts are open in shops, car parks, stations, hotels and hospitals."

Helen Kemp with campaigners at the lift by Viking Bay beach in Broadstairs
Helen Kemp with campaigners at the lift by Viking Bay beach in Broadstairs

The group staged a protest at the top of the lift in Broadstairs to raise awareness of their plight.

Liz Prater, who regularly visits Broadstairs from her home in Solihull, says she was disappointed to find the lift closed.

"I’m unable to walk up and down the steps," she said.

"I think this is a very retrograde move as far as visitors are concerned."

Ms Kemp says the closure of the lifts has affected many people.

"In Broadstairs there is no safe route for some to get to the beach, the lower walkway or the beach cafés," she added.

Broadstairs visitor Liz Prater is disappointed by the lift closure
Broadstairs visitor Liz Prater is disappointed by the lift closure

She says Access Thanet has come up with ideas to make it easier to open the lift during the restrictions, but without response from the council.

"We have suggested limiting usage to those who have mobility challenges or small children in buggies," she said.

"We have offered to find and support volunteers to monitor usage.

"We suggested limiting opening times to a few hours per day assisted by the security staff employed by Broadstairs town council.

"This would be so helpful and security could be prioritised if there is antisocial behaviour elsewhere on the beaches.

"We would support the lift being used by only one person, plus a carer, at a time. It is certainly possible to be more than a metre apart within the lift."

'We are continuing to liaise with our insurers to review whether we can open them safely' - Thanet District Council

She added: “We believe that people with disabilities should be free to make the same choices about going to the beach as the rest of the population.

"Unfortunately no council representatives are prioritising how that equality can be put into practice."

A Thanet council spokesman said: "As per our Beach Management Plan, our seafront lifts at Viking Bay and Ramsgate main sands remain closed as a result of the national social distancing measures currently in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

"We appreciate that many people use the lifts to access the beach and we are continuing to liaise with our insurers to review whether we can open them safely."

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