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July 2011

On the Home Front

As this update is being written, members of the Group are feeling on top of the world!
Not only have we succeeded in getting our Access Guide produced on time (see below), but our hard work is also being recognised and our fame is spreading. In June, we were especially pleased to receive a phone call from a gentleman who had read an article about us in the Chichester Observer. He has a disabled daughter and wanted to thank us for what we are doing. We really appreciate his kindness in letting us know how he felt.

However, not everything is rosy. Less welcome was the discovery that the Group had received its first ‘rubber cheque’ since its formation. This is especially upsetting as it was for an audit that had been carried out at short notice - and at a weekend. We only make a small charge for such audits, but the income generated enables us to carry out work for the benefit of members of the general public. We do hope this is not a sign of the times.

More saddening was the news that Janet, our long-standing Vice-Chairman, had decided to retire. We thank her very much for all she has done. She has been a tower of strength and we will miss her, but are pleased that she will continue to work as an auditor for us when we need her expertise.

Thank goodness for more good news! Roland Higgins had just retired from his post as Executive Director of West Sussex Association for Disabled People/Voice for Disability and agreed to become our new Vice-Chairman. He is no stranger to us as he was instrumental in getting CAG started in the first place and acted as our secretary for the first few years. We welcome him back as an old and valued friend. We’ve also had a change in the Treasurer’s department. David Ribbens is now our Treasurer with Terry Studd becoming his assistant - a very successful partnership.

 

Chichester City Access Guide

The launch of the product of this major endeavour was arranged by Chichester District Council (CDC). It took place on Monday 4th July at an 'All Together Now' event. Our Chairman, supported by our new Vice Chairman, presented the Guide to about sixty people from the Chichester Partnership - a body representing various authorities, organisations and businesses in the district. It was very well received and there was loads of positive feedback. CDC also notified the media through a blanket press release. We were delighted that the story was carried by the Midhurst and Petworth papers as well as the Chichester Observer and Chichester News. It was even reported in the Portsmouth News!

The photograph below was taken in the Bishop’s Palace Gardens. It shows the Guide being displayed by Councillor Miles Cullen, Deputy Leader of CDC, with Margrith, Mary, David, Glynis and Barbara, our Chairman, who were all involved in doing the audits. This venue was very appropriate as we had given advice on improving access in 2009. (See Previous Page – May 2009.) Earlier this year we recommended it to the Centre for Accessible Environments for having made significant improvements. Since then the Group has heard that the Gardens are now gaining a growing international reputation for their achievements.

 

The free Guide can be viewed or downloaded from this website via the link on the Home page. The booklets are available from CDC reception, WSCC reception, The Council House, North Street, Public Libraries and Tourist Information Offices or can be ordered from Tourist Information Offices or CAG (see ‘Contact Us’ link on Home page.) to be sent by post (£1 p&p).

 

Centurion Way Link

Another, equally satisfying, event took place on the 18th of May - the opening of this hard-fought-for link to the Lavant end of the fully accessible foot/cycle-way from the west side of the City. The report of our initial involvement can be found on the March 2010 Previous Page.

The Opening Ceremony was split between two places; at the beginning of the new link, which we campaigned for, and at the steps and ramp constructed to take cyclists using Centurion Way through the new estate at Mid Lavant, which we had challenged.

The Group is grateful to Cllr Derek Wittington, CDC, who performed one of the opening ceremonies and requested our Chairman to cut the ribbon to open the other. We also thank Duncan Barratt and Simone Makepiece, both of WSCC, who worked with us to get this link. They are all shown in the first picture below on the left, right and centre respectively, suitably equipped with bicycles, at the Centurion Way/ Lavant Link junction, with our Chairman and some of our members.

 

    

 

    

Mr D Mortimer, the local landowner who provided the extra land for the new accessible route, is pictured at the Lavant end of this excellent new pathway – shown on the right.

At the other part of the ceremony Cllr Whittington was joined by Chris Coates, Managing Director of Oakford Homes (the developers who had provided some funding) and then by representatives of others connected with the Centurion Fields estate.

    

A Simple Request

That was how we saw it when part of Chichester's Central School playing field was fenced off to provide a separate area for community use. What we wanted was the removal of a redundant concrete step and two vandalised wooden gates at the entrance to allow safe access for all.
The following report by one of our members gives details of the progress so far:

First I rang West Sussex County Council – Could we please have level access to the field?
The operator answered – It’s with Highways you must deal.

I asked the man from Highways – Would you please remove the concrete step and gates with centre panels gone?
The Highways man said helpfully – That sounds to me like Rights of Way, I’ll pass the message on.

When Rights of Way rang me next day they very soon decreed – Highways are the ones for this. We’ll pass your message back with speed.

A man called Chris from Highways emailed his confusion and I went and showed him that the step was no illusion.
Chris listened sympathetically, took photos of the site, then said – It might be Property – He thought that would be right.

Stewart down in Property checked the site upon a map, he surely was no fool, then passed the message on to Nigel at the school.

Nigel wrote and promised, “In due course”, to remove the gates and give all access to the grass.

The brambles and the nettles were dealt with straight away. Here’s hoping that the step will also vanish any day.