Underpass access ‘only for the able-bodied’

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A row over access to a Jedburgh underpass has flared up again as a mobility scooter user prepares to return to her home after being forced to move due to the winter floods.

Three years ago, 74-year-old Iris Hutcheon, of Jedburgh, complained that disabled people and the less mobile were discriminated against by a decision not to create a dropped kerb on the A68 underpass at Canongate.

A petition of 63 signatures was handed over to Scottish Borders Council suggesting the dropped kerb.

“It wouldn’t need a lot of work,” said Ms Hutcheon this week. “It’s just three steps, and they just need smoothed out a bit so that mobility scooter users like myself can use it. There are also a lot of young mothers with buggies and prams who find the steps very difficult.”

Ms Hutcheon has been living in Bongate for the last nine months after January’s heavy flooding left her unable to remain in her Richmond Row home.

“I was upstairs,” she said, “but the waters left the lift not working. I’ve been given a date of August 25 to move back in, but I’m not sure that it will be ready in time.”

She went on: “At present, the underpass is only for the able-bodied. The underpass was put there to keep pedestrians off the A68, but I find I have to cross it.

“Sometimes, it’s twice or thrice a day, like when I have to go to the surgery. It is ridiculous, we really are the forgotten people.”

A Scottish Borders Council spokesperson said this week: “This is a long-standing issue and unfortunately whilst various engineering solutions have been investigated to make the underpass at Richmond Row useable to those in wheelchairs and mobility scooters, such work would not be compliant with the relevant current technical standards to ensure safe passage, due to the gradient.

“Any new works must comply with current legislation and standards and unfortunately at this location this is not possible whilst utilising the existing underpass.”