Opinion with Chair of Access Thanet Helen Kemp: A plea to open the Viking Bay lift

A plea for the lift to be back in action again

Helen Kemp is a founder member of Access Thanet, a disability campaign group and mum to an adult son who lives with muscular dystrophy and uses a powered wheelchair.

Helen Kemp

As a B&B owner in Broadstairs  I have already been asked by potential visitors if the Viking Bay lift will be open this year. It’s closure for the last two years ruined the possibility of many to enjoy the bay and the promenades around them.

I am writing now to convince TDC councillors and officers to ensure proper maintenance and preparation of the lifts for summer opening in Broadstairs and Ramsgate. They must then announce the date of opening.

Some people have physical disabilities or temporary health issues and others just find the ninety steps a bit too much of a challenge. Everyone should have equal access given that the lifts exist and under equalities legislation, should be maintained.

It is unforgivable that for two years people with these issues have found the lifts are closed. We have been given excuse after excuse. Obviously for many weeks of last year it was COVID. Though for some of August after COVID restrictions were lifted, I was told that there was a mechanical issue.

Meanwhile, thousands of people thronged down the steps and onto the sand during July and August. At the same time filthy car park lifts, managed by TDC, have continued to operate throughout the pandemic. lifts in shops, stations, schools and leisure centres were also open. Of course, I appreciate that only one ‘bubble’ should access at a time.

Throughout the 2019 season, mechanical issues were used as an excuse and then COVID during 2020. The beach lifts never opened.

Physically able people were on the beach and the less fit could not go there.

Accusations of discrimination can be expected if a council has not demonstrated that everything in their power has been done to enable equal access.

The lift appears graffiti covered and grubby as can be seen in photographs. Thanet council has received numerous email and telephone communications about this over the last two years.

Now is the time for the council to demonstrate care. They must show that they will maintain the lift in safe working order and TELL US THE OPENING DATE!


  1. Well said Helen! To me the lift symbolises an attitude towards disabled people that is all too prevalent – marginalised and sent to the back of every queue. There are 14 million of us and we want to be listened to!

  2. Well said. TDC have an obligation to maintain these….they are also discriminating against less able people which is unlawful. My God this lot have just spent £2.2 million pounds on new DIESEL refuse collection lorries, yes DIESEL (which no one sensible would purchase), only to say they can’t afford to spend any money on a lift’s maintenance which is preposterous! TDC doing what they do best…. ignoring the needs of disabled folk which is ILLEGAL.

    • In my mind no-one sensible would purchase cheese made from Cashew nuts that have travelled thousands of miles in gas guzzling Aircraft, yes AVIATION FUEL. Still you carry on virtue signalling if it helps you sleep at night.

    • The cost of the diesel trucks is one issue. Changing to electric will need additional infrastructure costs (charging facilities), additional staffing costs (as the electric vehicles will need to return to base more frequently meaning more collection rounds), plus higher asset costs in real terms as the lifespan of diesel vehicles is longer than electric. In order to equalise the costs residents could choose between a reduction in collection services or paying more through council tax, neither of which will be popular, just as diesel is not palatable to the climate lobby. All in all a lose-lose situation. This comment is not intended to approve or disapprove of diesel over electric, just draw attention to some of the pragmatics.

  3. Would TDC consider eventually to hand over the lift to Broadstairs Town Council? Would direct some of the funding from the government towards its repair and maintenance? Margate and Ramsgate have received significnt large sums from government. Surely this would be greatly deserving of such support

  4. I remember when the Broadstairs lift was built and was opened in a blaze of publicity. The cost of building the lift would have been prohibitive and I am sure that raising the funds for the build would have been hard fought. Why oh why then just leave it to rot and just drop the service?? Its absolutely ridiculous. Its iconic and is a vital service for anyone with a disability. For goodness sake TDC please sort this out 😡

  5. I can’t believe it’s been two years since we had a functioning lift to the beach! It really is unacceptable. As a mother of young children, the lift option is also much safer for me to use as well as people with physical disabilities or ill health. The discriminatory message here is undeniable. This should be a top priority and anybody who is seeking help from our council for something like this should be listened to. Action must be taken! I have seen council workers out and about doing some amazing work, such as ensuring playgrounds are in working order and safe. This issue should be no different. There should be no excuse. Please TDC, do the right thing and make sure equality is top priority!

  6. Could we please have a response from someone in authority about this. The lift is a precious local amenity that needs to be preserved. A visiting blind friend of mine was delighted to be able to use the lift to have a walk on the sand, instead of being guided down the steps. If it’s open it’s part of a welcoming environment in our lovely town.

  7. We need a comment from someone in the relevant authority about when the lift is scheduled to open. It’s an important local amenity that needs to be preserved. A blind friend of mine, visiting Broadstairs, was delighted to be able to use the lift rather than being guided down the steps. When the lift is working is contributes to the welcoming atmosphere in our lovely town.

  8. We definately need a comment from someone responsible for the lift about when it is due to open. I have been unable to get down to the beach to be with family and friends because,as an powered wheelchair user, the lift is my only means to get to beach level. The alternatives are all unsafe for myself and others with mobility issues-the slope at the end of the promenade on to Harbour Street is dangerous.
    I am furious that as a person with disabilities who wants to use all facilities of this beautiful seaside town in the same way as other people I am prevented from doing so.
    It appears that this is a failure of the TDC and Broadstairs Town Council to abide by their responsibilities under the Equalities Act to ensure disabled people have the same access to amenities and services as others.

  9. I agree we need a comment from someone with overall responsibility for the lift and a date when when it is scheduled to reopen. I am a powered wheelchair user and for the last two years have been unable to spend time with my friends and family on the beach.
    I am furious that I am unabe to access services that others take for granted.
    The Equalities Act was meant to ensure that disabled people were able to access services and places that others can enjoy and to remove the barriers that prevented this. This council should recognise their responsibilities under this legislation. It is highly likely there could be a legal challenge if this lack of access to the beach continues.

  10. I am one of many who have watched this ongoing saga in the hopes that TDC would actually do the right thing and get this lift repaired and reopened.
    For a council that hopes to promote the area as a tourist resort, such blatant disregard for the needs of visitors and locals alike is unacceptable. Come on TDC, get your finger out and get the lift repaired and reopened!

  11. It is quite shocking to see the neglect of this lift and realise just how long it has been out of action. Relatively recently moved here I was hoping to take my elderly father onto the beach sometime soon now that we are able to meet up but he may well struggle with the steepness of Harbour St. The lift would make the difference. Come on TDC. Access for all your residents is surely essential.

  12. While I have every sympathy with those that find it difficult to get around easily I do find it strange that they would choose to live in a town that is hilly with very narrow pavements and steep cliff paths down to the beach. There are lots of other lovely areas which are on the level with easily accessible beaches. I live on the third floor of an apartment block but when I get too old to manage the stairs I will need to move to somewhere more suitable. You can’t change the geography of an area but you can change where you live.

    • Hi Ruby, many elderly and disabled people live with very limited incomes and their circumstances do not allow for a change of residency based on physical need. We are so fortunate that much of the seafront is perfect for walking and using disability equipment.. we only demand the maintenance and management of an existing resource in this instance. One of the reasons some may live here is access to the beach via lift.

    • Don’t like where you live? Move! That’s a bit of a thoughtless remark isn’t it? We all get old and we never know when we’ll lose abilities. All towns should cater for people of all ages and physical abilities. Unless you know somewhere perfect that all we imperfectly abled can move to.

  13. I cannot believe that the lift in Viking Bay is still not operating. There are so many people that would, for a wide variety of reasons, benefit from this lift. The Council must act immediately to bring it back into use. Not to do so is sending a message that they are not interested in the opinions, well-being or spending power of people who are older, disabled, have young children in pushchairs or are less mobile for other reasons. This is not what you would expect from any competent Council that has modern views on equality and access. With such a beautiful beach, and a lift in place, this is turning an opportunity for great publicity into potentially huge embarrassment. How does TDC wish to be seen by residents, tourists and the wider world?

  14. I cannot believe the lift at Viking bay is still not going to be in use this year it’s outrageous!!! I have been coming to Broadstairs for many many years and now with my grandchildren. But for the last two years we have had to have our annual holiday elsewhere . Without a lift it has become difficult to gain access to the beach due to my mobility my grandchildren’s buggies and seaside stuff to carry makes it impossible to go on the beach at Viking bay.
    I was under the impression local councils were an inclusive body obviously not!
    Disgusted Londoner

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