Access denied to disabled drivers as Newport beach remains a car-free zone
Bruce Sinclair, local democracy reporter
Disabled driver access will not be reintroduced at a ‘car-free’ Pembrokeshire beach this year, but the national park is “actively pursuing” options to improve disabled access.
Earlier this year, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority ended parking on the Newport Sands beach after purchasing the land, in response to growing safety concerns and following decades of damage.
It said the beach would be a ‘car-free’ zone, with exceptions only allowed for emergency services and essential car users such as the RNLI and coastguards.
Part of this included the installation of a lockable barrier on the northern slipway and a boulder on the southern slipway.
A petition was later launched demanding a backtrack, saying an outright ban will have an adverse effect on a wide cross-section of beach users, including disabled visitors.
A specialist report on potential disabled access was commissioned by the national park, which was heard at the July 26 meeting of the authority.
Members heard the consultant’s report raised a number of issues.
“It recognises and accepts that any ongoing provision of disabled vehicular access onto the beach is potentially incompatible with the overarching objective of a ‘vehicle-free’ natural environment,” a report for park members said.
“To mitigate that adverse impact, any provision would need to be extremely limited in scale.
“It is a reasonable expectation that any future provision would be materially different from the pre-existing practises.
“The existing beach access infrastructure would need to be assessed and adapted to ensure it was safe and fit for purpose before any beach parking offer could reasonably be offered to meet the essential needs of disabled people.”
The update says “it would be unreasonable and unrealistic to encourage or promote ongoing disabled beach parking for the foreseeable future”.
It added: “The Authority’s assessment of the risks at Traeth Mawr highlight that it is presently unsafe for vehicles to access the beach (including disabled users) due to a range of issues.
“As a result, the Authority will continue to restrict vehicular access.”
At the July meeting, members agreed to keep the car-free resolution, with a further update and report being provided after the first car-free summer, along with “actively pursuing options of how to improve access for people living with disability”.
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