Iris wins six-year fight to be able to use A68 underpass

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One woman’s six-year mission to make an A68 underpass in Jedburgh disabled-friendly could be about to reach a successful conclusion.

Iris Hutcheon, 74, of the town’s Richmond Row, has fought since 2010 to make the underpass at Canongate mobility scooter-compatible.

And now, after being told several times that it could not be done, it seems that Scottish Borders Council has come round to her way of thinking.

Iris said: “I have been fighting for this for six years. It is quite unbelievable that such a small thing can take so long to be made right, but I’m delighted they seem to have seen sense.

“It’s not just for me. I have seen women with prams struggle up the steps as well, and for wheelchairs it is a non-starter.”

Three small steps had proved to be the unpassable obstacle – forcing her to either take a much longer detour, or take her chances crossing the busy A68 on her way into town.

There has been an accident involving a vehicle on the road and a mobility scooter, so the danger is real, she says.

The council’s stance on this issue up until now has been that “such work would not be compliant with the relevant current technical standards to ensure safe passage, due to the gradient”.

However, the town’s other two underpasses both sport ramps of a steeper gradient than would be required at Canongate.

Now, though, it looks like things could be going Iris’s way, as she has received an email from Jedburgh councillor Jim Brown, sent previously to him by David Richardson, asset manager at the council, and it states: “I have been authorised to undertake the neccessary alterations to the stepped ramp within the Canongate underpass, which will allow disabled and pram access.”

A council spokesperson told us: “Following further discussions regarding the accessibility of the Canongate underpass at Jedburgh, officers are designing alterations to the steps.

“Once the design work is completed, the necessary funding for the works will be identified.”

Mr Brown, also the council’s vice-convener, said: “I fully support Ms Hutcheon on this and have been at her side through this long saga.

“The council’s previous decision was taken after legal advice dictated that replacing the steps with dropped kerbs would amount to the creation of a continuous incline outwith 1995 Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) recommendations.

“I have been at great pains to explain that dropped kerbs were not what was being suggested. What was needed was a short metal incline on each of the three steps to allow these mobility scooters access.

“I must also point out that the option of taking the alternative route over the A68 also includes climbing a non DDA-compliant incline anyway.”