Elderly and infirm Penarth residents have been told that they can NOT have a central safety handrail installed on the treacherous Park Road Steps – even if they pay for it themselves.
The pensioners wanted a central handrail installed on the dangerous steps so they could steady themselves when using the route – particularly in frosty and icy weather.
However the pensioner’s pleas – and their offer to pay for the scheme out of their own pockets – have been dismissed by the Labour-run Vale of Glamorgan Council and its “Community Safety” ‘cabinet’ member Cllr Bronwen Brooks (Labour Court Ward Barry).
The issue arose in full council after local Cllr Maureen Kelly Owen (Conservative Plymouth Ward) had written to the so-called “Older Person’s Champion” on the Vale Council, Cllr Stuart Egan asking that at the start of the icy season “handrails are installed as a matter of urgency where they are desperately needed and before someone is injured or worse .”
Cllr Egan passed the hot-potato to Cllr Brooks to deal with.
Cllr Brooks had begun her answer by petulantly criticising some of the 47 members of the council for chatting with colleagues whilst she was attempting to speak. She said “There are about six meetings going on in this room [the Vale council chamber] – where people are trying to speak. It’s actually quite disconcerting when you are stood up here ”
Cllr Brooks claimed that the whole area of Windsor Gardens and Alexandra Park “is accessible by all members of the community ….although it is recognised that its hillside setting can make certain parts of the park ‘challenging’ to elderly visitors”
She said she was aware that elderly residents had been “campaigning for a hand rail to be installed on the Park Road steps and had even taken their concerns to the local Government Ombudsman and the Vale Council’s “Equality Officer” .
She said residents had been wrong to claim that the council had been in breach of the law by refusing to install a handrail at this location. She was confident the council was in the right.
Cllr Brooks then – in effect – proceeded to tell Penarth residents that if they couldn’t manage the Park Road Steps, then they were other alternative routes they could use. Cllr Brooks alsop pointed out that there was “no requirement for the council to provide handrails”.
When local residents said they’d pay for the handrails themselves, council officers then insisted that they would not be allowed to have a central handrail installed . Cllr Brooks argued that “It is more appropriate to have the handrail down one side of the steps” [PDN Note: In fact, there is a precedent – for a central handrail – down the Dolly Steps].
Cllr Brooks claimed that the council was ready to help the pensioners but said “We must insist on its position [i.e. to one side and not central] as we are left with all liabilities after its construction”.
Cllr Bronwen Brooks had a final uncompromising message for the frail pensioners who had been prepared to pay for the work to be done out of their own pockets: –
“Regrettably” – she said- ” if they insist on the central location for the handrail, the work will not take place”.