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Pub chain agrees to access solution

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: November 28, 2013

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  • A dad struggles to get the push chair up the steep steps.

  • Andy Smith and Sarah Thomas protesting outside the JD Wetherspoon pub.

PUBLIC protest has forced a national pub chain to reverse its decision to ban disabled people from using a ramp to access its premises in Bodmin.

More than 500 people signed a petition in two days after the Cornish Guardian highlighted the plight of wheelchair-users of JD Wetherspoon's Chapel an Gansblydhen pub after the company closed the delivery ramp amid health and safety concerns, even though people have used it for five years without any accidents.

The only other access is via steep steps, making it impossible for customers in wheelchairs – or those with pushchairs – to enter the former Methodist church, which is a listed building.

This week JD Wetherspoon bosses, disabled people and local councillors agreed on a solution.

People in powered wheelchairs will soon be able to ring a phone number to access the pub via the ramp.

Mums will receive help from pub staff to carry pushchairs up the steep steps, but will not be allowed to use the present ramp.

In the longer term, JD Wetherspoon will look at constructing a lift or an improved ramp access on the other side of the building.

Sarah Thomas, who instigated the campaign, said she and her disabled son Luke went to the pub a few times a week for coffee.

"The people who supported this campaign have been fabulous. I stopped the petition after two days when Wetherspoon's agreed to the meeting and I wanted to hear what they had to say.

"The area managers were wonderful and they apologised for the insensitive way they had handled the closure of the ramp. I do see it as a victory for disabled people and I'd like to thank everyone for their support."

Under the new agreement, risk assessments will be made by the pub manager and powered wheelchair-users will be able to call to request access via a number posted on the locked gates to the ramp.

Bodmin town councillor Pete Skea, who is disabled, said he and others had formed a group to work with JD Wetherspoon to resolve the access issues.

"The company has promised us monthly updates on what they are proposing.

"At the moment we have a short-term solution for users of electric wheelchairs, although there is still an issue with manual wheelchairs.

"Hopefully in the long term Wetherspoon will be putting in a lift but the new group will be working with the company to help them sort out access issues," said Mr Skea.

The company's health and safety manager Paul Carrington said: "These (risk) assessments will only need to be completed once with each customer and the intention is they will be completed prior to a visit to the pub.

"Entry can then be made by contacting the pub via a phone or intercom when the manager will open the bottom gate allowing the powered chair through, before closing the gate.

"There will still be no public access over the ramp due to the inherent risks which will limit manual chairs in the short term, but our longer-term approach will be access for all and there are a number of ideas," said Mr Carrington.

Cornwall councillor for the area Pat Rogerson said she would work with JD Wetherspoon and council planners to find a permanent solution.

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