Bollards restricting club access

TAREE Aquatic Club (Sailo's) is calling for the removal of bollards installed by Greater Taree City Council in front of its Macquarie Street premises.

The bollards are part of the Manning Foreshore development, which saw a shared pathway constructed in front of the club and the council place bollards to separate the pathway from the roadway and to stop vehicles being driven onto the pathway.

This area, which is a flat surface, has previously been used as a drop-off point for patrons and also allowed people to get out of vehicles under the awning, protected from the elements.

Club CEO Richard Moore said the bollards are causing access issues for disabled and elderly patrons but the main thing that "irks" him is his belief there was no real consultation by council, nor any acknowledgement of the issues.

"All we get told is that it's all fine".

Taxi driver Ted McKellar, who drives a taxi designed for disabled passengers, said the bollards, which take away access to flat ground, have caused significant problems when he assists his passengers to exit (or enter) the taxi because of the steep incline of the road.

He also said it is difficult to find a safe place to park his taxi and is adding his voice to the request the bollards be removed.

"We pulled up to drop a lady in a wheelchair off, saw the bollards up and questioned where I was going to park.

"The flat ground where I normally parked was blocked by the bollards and the sharp slope was too dangerous."

Ted explains that the hoist needs flat ground to work.

The incline of the road in front of the bollards is too steep and Mr McKellar said the people in wheelchairs will just roll sideways.

Because the car park at the side of the club was full, he couldn't safely turn around so manoeuvred the vehicle and parked on part of the pathway and was precariously close to the edge of a sharp drop.

In a conversation with council he said he was told there was nothing that could really be done about it.

"It's stopping disabled persons from getting into the club," Mr McKellar said.

"It's a humanitarian thing why can't a disabled person rightfully access a facility approved by council?"

Mr McKellar said he has a lot of passion for this town and is disappointed about what he considers a lack of community consideration and council not being prepared to listen.

Mr Moore said some of the disabled patrons in wheelchairs are finding it so difficult to get in or out of their vehicles on the slope near the club entrance that they are now going up to the top of the hill so they can get into their vehicles safely.

"They couldn't physically load at that angle."

The incline is also creating difficulty for the drop-offs of elderly patrons.

"Elderly people who don't have a disability are still generally more frail.

"If they get out of a car at that angle they could nearly fall over. On the other side, the door could fall back in on them."

Mr Moore is also concerned about issues the incline could cause for emergency services vehicles.

The club was shown a copy of the foreshore plan in January 2013 and Mr Moore said the club made a submission objecting to number of things, but predominantly the placement of the bollards.

He believes there were other options for the pathway but their biggest frustration is they feel they have never been listened to or consulted in the process.

"Despite assurances that their issues would be addressed, they weren't."

"We are all for enhancement of the riverbank. But as a business that has been open for the past 60 years, it has to be considered and there were alternatives.

"It was ignored."

The day the bollards were installed there was an on-site meeting between council's general manager Gerard Jos , mayor Paul Hogan and council staff and the club, where the club attempted to have the installation stopped.

Council agreed not to put in one of the bollards but the other five remained.

"The problem we faced is that council said there has been consultation but their hasn't. We've been ignored. The patrons have been disadvantaged and the plans needed to be modified."

Mr Moore said the club and its membership are "really cranky" and the executive has taken it upon themselves to petition its members about the issue.

While the club has keys to the bollards, they say it is problematic to be constantly coming out to remove them to allow for access for taxis, including Mr McKellar's.

He said the club's executive are looking into options about what action to take and Mr McKellar plans to seek advice from disability organisations.

Council's response

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