Signs declaring the seafront lifts at Viking Bay and the Eastcliff in Ramsgate as ‘permanently closed’ have been removed.
The signs were put up on April 1 along with notification of “alternative accessible routes to the beach.”
On Thanet council’s website an explanation said: ““Unfortunately our seaside lifts at Viking Bay and Ramsgate remain closed. Even if temporary repairs can be made to get the lifts open, contractors have advised there is no guarantee they will stay working during the season.
“A long-term strategy for both lifts will be formulated to consider their future. In the meantime, the council has measures in place to allow for alternative accessible routes to the beach.”
The measures include matting installed in Broadstairs and additional disabled parking bays at Harbour Street Car Park in mid April.
But a public outcry followed, including the launching of a petition by resident Barry Stickings, saying the decision should be reversed and the lifts repaired.
Mr Stickings, whose son is blind, said closing the lifts was denying inclusiveness for many people. His petition has now gained more than 2,000 signatures of support
Now, the signs have been removed although both lifts are still out of action.
A post on social media by Councillor Mike Garner says: “Both myself and Cllr Becky Wing, along with numerous other residents, wrote to the leader of the council at the end of last week calling on him to find a way to fix both the Viking Bay and East Cliff lifts for the Summer season and make sure they’re kept open.
“We had a reply from him and it seems that public pressure is having an impact. He told us that “Contrary to the signs which appeared last Thursday, no decision has been taken to close the lifts permanently and I have asked for those signs to be removed. In my view such a decision could only be taken by TDC politicians or on legal advice, for example because they are unsafe.’”
Cllr Garner says he has asked who authorised the signs saying the lifts are permanently closed.
He added: “I understand that they are now looking to open the lifts this year and that a paper will be presented to cabinet setting out all the issues to inform a proper discussion.”
Independent representative for Broadstairs, Cllr Ruth Bailey, had been calling for lift repairs at Viking Bay back in 2019.
Of the latest development she posted: “I received an email from a member of the CMT (council management team) on Easter Sunday to say that there would be meetings this week to see if there are any alternative approaches regarding the lift and that they would be in touch after that.
“I have also been exchanging emails with the portfolio holder and community representatives. Of course, any decisions that are made should be transparent and in full consultation with all relevant parties at all levels including, importantly, those who most depend on using the lift whose voice, and experiences, should be heard.”
Cllr Mark Hopkinson posted to social media to say: “Council officers made this decision without consulting elected members.”
The next scheduled Cabinet meeting is on April 29.
Helen Kemp, from disability support group Access Thanet, said no consultation was carried out with members and the alternative route recommended in Broadstairs is unsafe.
She said: “Understanding of equalities legislation is that local councils should consult with those affected by decisions of this kind. They should pay ‘due regard’ and make reasonable adjustments.
“Until now, nobody has come to me or Access Thanet members to discuss the impact of the closures. If somebody had, the embarrassment of advising wheelchair users in Broadstairs to use the ‘alternative access to beach’ route might have been avoided.
“The route is one specifically proscribed by experts in the field. The camber past the arcade is dangerously steep and self propelling, powered or pushed wheelchairs should not be guided to use that route to Harbour Street.
“Harbour Street itself is crowded through summer and holiday times and cars of all kinds continue to use it. There is no pavement on one side and the narrowness of the other also makes it an unsafe as a general alternative to wheelchair and scooter users as well as those with walkers or sticks.
“Of course some residents and visitors have the strength and confidence to use this route but to have it ‘ officially ‘ recommended smacks of carelessness.”
Mrs Kemp has been told “tens of thousands of pounds” would be required for Thanet council to fund repairs.