No access for disabled at beauty spot

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The Environment Agency has defended its decision not to include a ramp for disabled people to a popular area in West Wittering – because it would have an impact on the rural landscape.

Concerns from Chichester Access Group prompted the agency to investigate the possibility of having a ramp for disabled users as part of new flood defences by the Crab Pool.

Area flood and coastal risk manager for the Environment Agency (EA) Andrew Gilham said: “As a responsible public body we always try to ensure that new flood defences include appropriate public access where it is safe and reasonable to do so.

“At West Wittering, we have included improved access along the coastal footpath for everyone. We are aware of the concerns of the Chichester Access Group with regards to access to the Crab Pool.

“We have investigated the option of a ramp at this location but do not consider it appropriate due to the impact on the rural nature and character of the local landscape.

“The local community and landowners, who are part funding the works have expressed their desire to keep the area as rural as possible.”

In August 2011, the EA held a series of exhibitions at West Wittering, inviting the public to review its proposals and to comment on any particular issues that concerned them.

The agency said the feedback was ‘universally positive’ for the project as a whole and the majority of comments relating to the Crab Pool, were in favour of keeping it as rural as possible.

This opinion was echoed by the two landowners: West Wittering Estate and West Wittering Parish Council.

The EA took on board the feedback from the community and designed access to the Crab Pool to be sympathetic to the surrounding area.

These updated designs were again supported by the community and the landowners.

In March this year, Chichester Access Group contacted the agency to discuss the possibility of altering the design for the Crab Pool, to make it more accessible for people with disabilities.

The group met the landowners and the agency on site.

The design provided by the EA’s consultants showed that an access ramp, in accordance with the Building Regulations, would need to be more than 70 metres long. Handrails would also be needed along both sides and fencing across the Crab Pool itself for safety purposes.

The EA said the footprint of the new ramp would also damage environmentally designated land (Special Area of Conservation, Special Protection Area, Ramsar, Site of Special Scientific Interest, and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).