Disabled people forced to avoid Hampstead because of street clutter

Jeffrey Harvey supports Camden Council's decision to warn Hampstead businesses about street clutter.

Jeffrey Harvey supports Camden Council's decision to warn Hampstead businesses about street clutter. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Disabled people are forced to avoid Hampstead because of its street clutter and bumpy pavements, a wheelchair user has claimed.

A group of disabled Camden residents have spoken out in support of a council crackdown on advertising boards and newspaper delivery trollies obstructing pavements in Heath Street.

They have branded Hampstead’s streets an “obstacle course”, with one woman warning that many avoid the area altogether because it is “impassable”.

Their comments follow claims made in the Ham&High two weeks ago that Camden has “bullied” independent businesses by ordering them to remove anything left on public highways.

Eve Grace, 69, who is in a wheelchair after breaking her neck in an accident, said: “Anywhere in Hampstead with the cafés outside and the advertising boards, all this is a bit of a nuisance.”

The retired volunteer, of Haverstock Hill, Belsize Park, added: “I never go up to Hampstead anymore because it is so impassable, apart from anything else because it is so bumpy.

“It’s why many don’t go out. It makes it necessary to stay at home. We go only where it’s safe

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“The world wasn’t built for people in wheelchairs.”

A handful of business owners in Heath Street said they have never received complaints about their a-boards or trollies.

They added that they use signs to attract business, and that they have nowhere inside to store their boards or trollies.

However, this week a group of disabled residents wrote to the Ham&High to welcome the council’s decision to remove them.

Wheelchair user computer consultant Jeffrey Harvey, who has rare muscle disorder Pompe Disease, said: “It makes it more difficult to just go down the pavement, especially for visually impaired people when obstructions can be quite a surprise to them.”

Of the sign he is pictured with in Hampstead on Monday, the 45-year-old, of Mortimer Crescent, Kilburn, added: “If you were a visually impaired person, you wouldn’t expect that sign to be there.

“I noticed as I went past that people don’t seem to pay it any mind as for them, they can walk past it but I couldn’t fit through or just walk around it.”

None of the signs appear to have been removed so far.

Visually impaired Glen Coull, 77, of Parkhill Road, Belsize Park, said: “We should just say, tough! It’s an annoyance to people.”

Cllr Phil Jones, cabinet member for regeneration, transport and planning said: “Many local blind and partially-sighted people have told me that these obstructions make their lives very difficult.

“ I am pleased that another group has supported our common sense decision in relation to this.

“The council has a legal obligation to keep footpaths free of such obstructions to allow safe, unhindered access to all users, particularly to our residents and visitors who have visual impairments or mobility issues.

“We feel that local businesses also have an obligation to assist.”