Park Street pensioners ‘trapped’ in home

Disabled woman “housebound” in council flat calls for a disabled parking bay

A DISABLED pensioner with lung disease has criticised local councils for effectively leaving her “stuck” in her home because of a lack of disabled parking and a jagged path which hinders her mobility scooter.

Sixty-five-year-old Margret Cross wishes she could be more mobile and do more than look out at her local shop which is just across the road from her council flat on Park Street.

Glancing wistfully from the window of her small lounge, decorated with her delicately cross-stitched pictures, towards the store, Margret told the Herts Advertiser: “I’m stuck, and it’s stupid.”

Margret, who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and arthritis, said the St Albans district council (SADC) flat had no allocated parking for disabled people at the site. Bungalows at the address are designated for people aged more than 50 years but are not specifically for disabled people.

Also, a path providing access to her scooter stored behind her home and links to the public footpath along Park Street, has broken, jagged concrete which could pierce the tyres on her vehicle, which she could not afford to replace.

Margret said: “The shop is just there and I haven’t been there for 18 months as I just can’t get there because I get a puncture in my tyre, or muck in the gearbox and that jams it up, so I can’t use the scooter as much as I want to.”

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Her live-in carer, John Barton, 62, who also suffers from arthritis, explained that he has to park the mobility car alongside garages to the rear of the site, in a neighbouring street, risking incurring the wrath of residents.

He said: “I’m lucky if I get a park.”

And having the car parked elsewhere makes Margret nervous as when she coughs, she can sometimes bring up blood and pass out through lack of air in her diseased lungs. She walks with the aid of two sticks but because her legs sometimes give way, she can easily topple over.

She said: “It’s no good if I have an attack because John has to get the car and get me to hospital – by then it could be my lot.

“I’m housebound; unless he brings the car up to the flat [over a grassed area] which is breaking the law, I just sit here and do needlework. I have missed doctor’s appointments because I can’t get there.”

Margret, who has lived in the flat for three years, said: “I was alright when I first moved here – I could get around to the car but I’m so bad I can’t now.”

John said he had contacted the district council and an officer advised him to push Margret to the car in a wheelchair. He described the suggestion as “an insult” and added: “You try and push one in ice or snow.”

He is calling on both district and county councils to help resolve the issue, by re-routing the public footpath onto a grassed area in front of the block to allow for the kerb to be indented and dropped to create a disabled parking bay on Park Street.

A spokeswoman for Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) commented: “This location involves a busy A-road with associated parking enforcement measures, alongside land under the responsibility of the district council, fronting a property set back from the highway.

She said that both the county and district councils would need to consider any application alongside the safety of other road users before any such measures could be introduced. “We don’t appear to have received an application for a disabled parking bay for this property,” she added.

A spokeswoman for the district council maintained: “We are happy to receive reports about damage to footpaths on land owned by the council from tenants or anyone else who is concerned about the problem. Once we have been made aware of any damage we will assess it and where appropriate make arrangements to repair it.”

She explained that disabled parking bays could be provided if residents had blue badges, there was a vehicle registered at the property and there was no off-street parking associated with the site. Margret has a blue badge for her vehicle but even if a disabled parking bay was provided, it would not be restricted to her personal use as any blue badge holder could use such a space.

Also, while the district council owns land along the Park Street premises, some of the grassed area and footpath forms part of a communal garden which leaseholders in the adjacent flats have the right to use.

The spokeswoman added that she was, “unable to comment on individual cases due to restrictions in the Data Protection Act.”