Opinion with Christine Tongue: Thanet needs fair access for everyone

Make Thanet, and its attractions, accessible to all says Christine

I went to the Broadstairs town forum last week, online of course. There were reports from local groups such as ­Folk Week and the nice people who plant flowers around the station and everything was very positive. But, unseen by any Zoom camera, the elephant in the room in all this cosiness was sitting in a wheelchair and weeping.

I went to make a fuss about the Broadstairs lift – yet again – and I did, as loudly as I could.  But what we have to see is, this isn’t just a Broadstairs thing. All our towns need to start thinking about how they treat disabled people.

There are 14 million permanently disabled people in the UK and a rolling population of the temporarily decrepit made up of people breaking limbs, recuperating from surgery or, now, recovering from long covid exhaustion. They all need help with accessing the good things in life and they would all come and boost Thanet’s tourist industry if they thought they were welcome.

All our towns have high cliffs. All our towns have lifts. None are open! How are people to get to the bits of our towns they come for, the sea, the beaches, the harbours and all the good things that go with them – cafes, benches with nice views, shops, swimming, etc etc.

My friend with lung disease can’t get to the beach cafe she loves. My friend with Parkinsons can’t get to the Turner as the bus goes nowhere near and she can’t afford taxis everywhere.  Many others can only get to a fraction of the things they want to get to simply because of problems of access.

I found out at the town forum that someone is planting a bed of purple crocuses to commemorate polio eradication. I’m someone who survived polio and am now living with the consequences and, ironically, if they plant these crocuses on the steep slope down to Louisa Bay, I won’t be able to enjoy them. So, on the whole, I’d rather have a lift, thank you very much.

Think about how a wheelchair or a stick user could best move around and enjoy our towns. But better than that, ASK THEM!

As part of Access Thanet I hear the heart-breaking stories of people who are suffering extra charges for their carers, food poverty because they have to fight for benefits and the attitudes that label them as scroungers for wanting more income or as a “tiny minority” if they want outrageous things like more dropped kerbs and ramps into shops and cafes.

We have infrastructure which, with work, could be great for disabled people. Tidal swimming pools could have proper hand rails and slopes to assist access. We could have gentle slopes onto the beaches and wooden walkways once there.

Remember — wheelchairs and push chairs of all kinds get bogged down in sand. There is a wooden walkway on Viking Bay, but, unkindly, if disabled people actually manage to get to it, the plastic mesh path that links the walkway with the harbour arm involves a gap of soft sand that can wreck a powered wheelchair. There is a literal lack of joined up thinking.

Margate is getting millions of public money to spend on “health” and “well being” in the town.  More money for coastal regeneration in Thanet is coming up.

I hear about some of this money being used to give our shops a lick of a paint. I hear nothing about using it to tackle the problems of access for disabled people.

The elephant in the wheelchair is weeping.

Thanet, get the lifts working, change the bus routes, put ramps and handrails and dropped kerbs wherever disabled people want them. Change your attitude and your policies and we could be in a paradise for the disabled.


  1. It’s all down to money. There’s a finite amount available to TDC. What’s left after spending on the things they *have* to do, they should spend in a way that benefits most of the people most of the time.
    Less able people make up a minority of the population. Is it right that a disproportionate amount of money should be spent on a minority group?
    I absolutely agree that where new infrastructure is put in place, accessibility should be at the forefront of the planning process. I agree, too, that the beach “board walk” in Birchington must be joined up.
    But as to the lift in Ramsgate? If a less able person is a visitor, then drive (or be driven) to one of the sea front car parks. Or take the Loop bus to the harbour, and enjoy flat, level access to the prom.
    Far too often we hear of problems, and expect someone else to resolve them.

    • you are a right charmer Andrew hope you never become disabled,disabled people are entitled to everything an able bodied person is and why not? you are lucky not to have any problems you selfish nasty person disabled people are slowly becoming ostracised from society because of people like you I myself am disabled after surviving a serious stroke a survivor not a spastic as I have been called in the street not a loser, but a survivor I pay my taxes so why shouldn’t I be allowed to enjoy the same things an able bodied person does? it sounds as if you would treat disabled people the same way Hitler treated disabled Jews and that goes for anyone else who thinks disabled people are a waste of space you odious little man

      • Couldn’t you imagine the outcry if the word *disabled* was replaced by *black*? Yet it’s all the same – pure and simple discrimination against a sizable minority. I’m with Lesley and Christine all the way here.

          • Not at all. Andrew’s suggestion that the disabled get lifts in cars or use buses to access things isn’t that far off from black people in America’s deep south being refused access to restaurants and being told to go round the back or to get a white person to buy things for them.

            Of course, if you and “Andrew” really thought your comments were acceptable, then you’d be prepared to use your real names just like Christine Tongue, Lesley Peeling and myself do.

          • But nobody is being told to go around the back or refused access to anything. Fact is that both Viking Bay and Ramsgate beaches are absolutely accessible to everyone via the same entrance available”e to all.. My had severe mobility issues, yet accessed Ramsgate beach several times weekly, and never used the lift, it’s simply a matter of using what’s available.

            There’s no discrimination here Peter, and to try and present it as such is simply creates noise in which cases of real discrimination become lost.

            IMy comments are both accurate and perfectly acceptable, although not PC enough of course. As for Ms Tongue, the axe she has to grind is somewhat well known.

      • Does your logic apply in reverse? Ie. Every able bodied person be eligible to everything the disabled have access to? Disability benefits, free parking, motability, etc etc.
        The system as it is recognises the difficulties the less abled have and makes efforts to level things out as best practical. Advances in medical intervention, longer lifespans , lifestyle choices have all increased the numbers of the less able.
        Whilst its reasonably straightforward to design in adaptions in new infrastructure adapting all the existing is not so easy. I’ve no knowledge of the requirements for a lift designed for ise by a lone wheelchair user, but i’ve no doubt the legal requirements would be well beyond the scope of a redesign of the existing facilities.
        The lifts are a luxury the district can no longer afford, or do we divert the funds from other services to pay for them?
        Does anyone have any figures for the cost of bringing the lifts upto standard and the ongoing maintenance and service costs, i’ll tthrow a coin in the air and guess at 5 million to get the three lifts back in service and annual running costs of around 500k.
        Are such sums really justifiable effectively use of around 1000 cycles per year per lift, for those that can’t access the beach by other means?
        Surely the money would be better invested in say properly designed and newly built toilet blocks around the isle , these with modern disabled facilities ,i would hazard a guess , would likely be considered more important.

        Of course many of the things on peoples wish lists would be affordable if society as a whole was more responsible in how it lived and behaved, but whilst the areas public servants are busy cleaning up after people who can’t dispose of rubbish properly ( only this week a n aquaintance found a bag full of used nappies and rubbish dumped outside their back gate) resist beating each other up , burden the nhs as a result of lifestyle choice, enjoy vandalising whatever they can, drive like loons, list is endless. Money that could be spent on better things is instead efectivley wasted.
        So maybe it would be better to direct your ire at those who necessitate the squandering of the funds that could give you what you want.
        Last but not least , whilst small comfort, consider how the less able bodied are treated in other parts of the world and here say 30 years ago. Have there not been great strides forward? And is it really just anout inconceivable to imagine that improvements will not be ongoing?
        How about just pretending the lifts are not there and are instead just the modern day follies that they now represent. The district is effectively insolvent , bankrupt beyond redemption , maybe a wider view of the areas needs is needed.

        • “just pretending the lifts are not there” is like pretending that the disabled aren’t there. Not good enough.

          I wonder how much could be raised if (say) Turner Contemporary charged £2 per entry? If their attendance figures are accurate, then it would soon raise enough funds!

          • No, the lifts are a relic of a not very distant past, i’m in no way suggesting you ignore the disabled rather you ignore the lifts. The issue is being hijacked by a very small vocal minority , in reality how many truly cannot access the seafront ? Rather than not being able to use a facility that in the past was available to all but is now not available to anyone?
            There are lots of disabled in thanet who are desperate for adaptions in their homes which would make everyday living far more comfortable , these should come before lifts. Similarly the other story about the lack of dropped kerbs, Whislt I have no doubt that more are desirable , is it really good use of public funds to drop every corner in the district? Again why not rail against those that waste resources through indifference and irresponsible behaviour rather than expect the public purse to be bottomless.
            As for charging entry to the Turner, museums ad galleries have a general principle of free entry, like many i have great doubts as to the validity of the foot fall claimed for the Turner, even £2 would likely reduce that and probably cost more to collect than it raised, ( staff to monitor who enters, collect the fee, count the takings and bank them etc etc.) would probably need to be around £5 to actually end up as any practical proposition and that’d probably halve the numbers using the gallery.
            Like the climate change lobby, those championing disability rights will never be satisfied , there will always be demands for more . These single issue demands are just betond the pail and have no regard for the costs involved.

        • LC nasty get your facts correct we do not get free parking we pay for the blue badge and we also pay for motability disabled people are not looking for the world at their feet we would like to be treated the same as some of you numbsucks nice to know disabilitydiscrimination is alive and kicking in Thanet you should be proud of yourselvesyou make me sick.

          • Apologies I stand corrected, according to google a bluebadge costs around £10 for 3 years , i’ll quite happily take that deal (by comparison my partner has to pay far more for the avility to park outside her own home and visitor permits are around £3 a day). And as i understand it the motability scheme is funded from the upper rate disability benefit if someone wishes to use the scheme, again for a vehicle i’d need to do nothing more than put fuel in , i’ll take that deal quite happily.
            I’ve nothing against either scheme ( other than maybe there should be a degree of means testing for motability , in order to direct help to those in most need). My examples were merely the response to your wanting everyone to have the same access to everything.
            The lifts are an absurd example of supposed discrimination. If they were to be provided today they would without doubt be built to be inclusive for all, they weren’t and to try and make them so , would be prohibitively expensive in comparison that such cash could be put to use to elsewhere, you even agree in another post that the provision of disabled toilet facilities on the isle is dire, a point i fully agree with both for the able and less able, toilet facilities should be a much greater priority than lifts.
            As ever basics first luxuries later.

          • WM another person that hides behind initials you want what I get then take the disability too, oh, well put LC you pair of losers you two need life lessons or is it you don’t you like women speaking up for themselves?you two will not shut me up so don’t even try just show respect for those less able than yourselves and the more either of you harangue me the nastier I will get in fact you two gutless specimens clear b off and insult someone else in a minority group but first of all get a life between you Isay between you because I seriously doubt either of you could manage a meaningful life on your own

          • Calm yourself Lesley.

            Fact is that both beaches are absolutely accessible by all, the fact that there was a lift there is not relevant, and I suspect the cost to repair and update it would be monumental, and hence neither practical nor viable.

        • From tdc website


          A single daily permit is £3.70 a book of twenty is £54 but only valid in the tax year of purchase. (So a not inconsiderable amount, and you’d have to be sure you used them ) Also listed are the annual permit costs. My partner lives near the The St, Johns area in margate.
          The restrictions even apply on a saturday when the multi storey is free.
          In addition each time you want a permit you have to send proof of address which has to be checked so getting a permit at short notice is nigh on impossible . The days of buying a book of tickets at the Gateway for 40 pounds and them lasting forever are gone.
          Blatant revenue raising but rest of town don’t care until its proposed in a new area.

          The parking wardens are given “negative performance reviews” if they issue a ticket that is not recoverable , so cars on foreign plates, unregistered clunkers, travellers vehicles are not ticketed so as to make it look as though the vast majority of tickets are collected.
          All part of the slimey world of council outsourcing. ( previous arrangements were curtailed as a result of money from meters going missing, but that was never publicised)

    • *where new infrastructure is put in place, accessibility should be at the forefront of the planning process*
      You do know it’s 2021? Disability doesn’t wait for ‘new infrastructure’. Each human is entitled to be afforded the same opportunities regardless of ability or disability. Who are you to decide that any person can ‘drive or get driven’ or ‘get a loop bus’ ?! Surely the point is that as an individual you get to choose how you enjoy your environment should you choose to, and anyone living with a disability should have exactly the same options as you. No matter how much I don’t understand your opinion, you’re entitled to it, just like the way a person with a disability should be entitled to live without having to fight for things that should be available without question

        • Thank you for your opinion Lesley, in view of your somewhat angry demeanor such a response was expected. Would you consider accessing Ramsgate beach from Wetherspoons a particularly difficult proposition, and easier to access than getting to the top of the cliff to use the lift?

          • people like WM you make me angry If I did go out Ramsgate would be the last place I’d visit it has no appeal to me whatsoever the trouble with you and LC it hacks you off because I am getting something your not take on the disabilities shut up and get over yourselves

          • Getting something I’m not? Can I not use the lift when it’s operable? I wasn’t aware that the use of a public lift paid for with public cash was restricted to use by the disabled? When did that happen?

    • Surely most people visiting Ramsgate beach are not going to get off the Loop bus or park their car in Wellington Crescent, or somewhere else near the top entrance to the lift? I too think that the council has an obligation to spend its money on things which will benefit the majority of residents.

  2. It should not have escaped residents of Broadstairs and St Peters that it hss a referendum on the same day as the KCC election that they ALL have a chance and duty to vote on the town plan, which quite scandalously makes NO mention of any of the problems faced by the less ably bodied
    I hope residents realise what vote they should cast to emphatically stress the failures of TDC and KCC in this vital area for our commumity and for visitors on whom our finances depend

  3. It is a disgrace that these lifts are not in operation and in my view directly discriminates against the disabled and the elderly. If I am elected on May 6th I will attempt to get these lifts open again, ideally by a levy on housebuilders. Christian Burwash . Conservative candidate for Ramsgate.

    • Please save us from opportunist electioneering, whats the point of making pie in the sky statements , hoping to gain a few votes by jumping on the disability band wagon whilst simultaneously riding the developer bashing wagon. Even if you were elected such nonsense is going to result in little more than a waste of council time discussing such an idea.
      Any chance you could deal with the basics like getting the district back on track financially before pursuing pet projects should you get elected?

        • But conjuring up the notion of a developer levy to get the lifts back in order is. The council has plenty of legislation to comply with in respect of disability , let the prospective councillor dedicate themselves to this , once each and every i is dotted and t crossed by all means move onto the vote grabbing issues.
          I don’t see the disability campaigners highlighting the the problems of access to small independent shops, would this not be of greater bemefit to many? Or because it directs criticism on an individual is seen as not the done thing , much better to whitter on at a faceless public body in some hope that the local magic money tree (though likely that was felled long ago) will be shaken and their wish miraculously granted.

      • Christian Burwash is standing for Kent County CouncilIn Ramsgate not Thanet District Council so his options regarding the lifts are decidedly limited.

      • I’m afraid my days of jumping on anything, let alone bandwagon, are long over. If you think disability is a political bandwagon then I hope your legs go on working well until you die! None if us decided to be disabled to get attention or money. We mostly get neither so forgive me for shouting about issues we have been quiet about for far too long!

    • The lifts are a district council issue not a Kent County Council one. Could you explain how a Conservative county council candidate who lives in Deal could resolve this issue if elected on May 6th?

  4. “Andrew” the day ( it will come / maybe already benefitted in some way ) when you or a significant other to you requires what can appear to be simple help , consideration , medical , life enabling event or you become as you term a “ less able minority” will be a insignificant happening in the majority of the populations interest and day . The finance required to provide even the most simple help can be exorbitant.
    Your stated “Is it right that a disproportionate amount be spent on a minority group “ is excellent and should be fully applied and enforced to your good self when funding required – no complaint or squealing about your entitlement is expected from you .

    • Fred find somewhere that’s free then or do as a lot of men do and pee up the wall a lot of disabled people myself included do not have that choice, because toilets for the disabled are often kept locked it is either a case of pee yourself or use a pee bottle or of course don’t go out

  5. I assumed we are a caring society and reading some comments leaves me sad to think a few people are so pig ignorant when it comes to disabled issues. Money could be found or raised to fix the lifts, or build new ones. A wooden walkway extension on the beach, isn’t an expensive issue to fix and could be done in a few hours. If the will is there, none of the problems highlighted are that difficult to solve. Oh, and before anyone asks. I’m just into my seventies and not disabled yet, but I was a disabled child and remember how hard it was!

  6. To those of you on here who have an obvious dislike of disabled people tell me does your dislike include the brave servicemen and women that have lost limbs?do you begrudge them “free” parking, benefits and motability, and the freedom to move around in places without hassle

      • LC I know it is without the lifts disabled people, the elderly, and mums with buggies are being shut out of using the beach why should everything in your miserable little life be easy but not mine?

        • You’re obviously not someone with whom a civil structured conversation is possible, so i’ll not dignify your post with a response. However, no ones life is without problems, yours is no doubt beset with more than the majority. As a society there is a collective responsibility to help those who need it. Over the years this has improved immeasurably but like everything there are limits to the taxpayers ability to provide everything for all.
          There are a huge number of things in my opinion that come before reinstating lifts that are closed to all. If the management at TDC do decide to garner favour by wasting cash on the lifts it’ll just be another in a long line of hopeless decisions.
          As for inconsiderate parking , it makes me laugh at the irony of seeing a car with a blue badge parked across a tactile crossing marker everytime i see it , a disabled person willfully obstructing measures designed specifically to help the disabled. Happens in Westgate all the time.

        • There is no problem for parents with pushchairs, as there are slopes to the beaches in Ramsgate and Broadstairs. For them, the lift saves time, that’s all.

          • I clearly answered your question, the nation has a duty to look after those that areminjured in their service to the country (and housed properly , given due credit for their sacrifice) , but if we’re talking about lifts my answer is the same as above.
            I don’t use my real name on account of my profession and how easily i could be linked to my clients.

  7. This is to all of you who think a disabled persons life is easy in one afternoon in a very rare visit to a store I was minding my own as you do looking for dinner as you do when an ignorant able bodied waste of space parked themselves directly in font of me no excuse me nothing on that same visit I had not one but two handbags /shopping bags crack me around the face and head I have had more bums in my face and the perfect gentleman and I use that word sarcastically who actually passed wind in my face never any apology from these individuals would able bodied people put up with that sort of treatment? no they would not so why should I as a disabled person? we have enough to contend with without that sort of behaviour needless to say I I do not venture out very often so thanks to all of you who have a problem with disabled people,get yourself some therapy to learn how people should behave towards others, at the end of the day disabled people are human too

  8. Lesley Peeling- Nobody on this comment thread has behaved disgustingly toward disabled people . They have disagreed with you, that’s all.

    • I think, Ms. Peeling, that it’s high time you controlled your desire to be astonishingly rude to people. Nid wyf eisiau mynd i fyw yng Nghymru, ‘rwy’n hoffi byw yma.

  9. How does disagreeing with you make anyone a vile person Lesley, worthy of your diatribes because LC and I have the temerity to disagree with your viewpoint? The only person displaying any hate towards anyone is you.

    • unwise merlin like I have said to LC if you work why don’t you just carry paying taxes to fund my free parking free car and luxury lifestyle?now please leave me alone and bother someone else

    • oh another professional hiding behind a silly name it would seem Thanet has at least two businessmen who are opposed to disabled people trying to lead as normal a life as possible I hope I never have the need to use either of you for business good night and goodbye

  10. Your somewhat blinkered direction of thought seems to cloud your ability to think. I’ve little concern as to how people view me , that i have points of view that others disagree with is their problem not mine , especially when they are unable to communicate that view cherently and in the manner of civil debate.
    The regard for my clients is in respect of the rules and regs around gdpr and that my business have nothing to do with my views here. Wether or not they would share your view of me i have no idea , but given the length of time that a majority have chosen to use my services then i can only assume they are not overly discontented with what they receive.

  11. I’m hearing plenty of lip service from many politicians about getting the lifts working again. We now have a leader of the council who is herself disabled so I expect more understanding from TDC. And, by the way, the slopes on either side of Viking Bay are too steep for many wheel chairs. And driving down will not help if the beach walkway only goes to the Pavilion.

    • Best spend a couple of £100K on lifts that aren’t needed then, rather than a little more timber walkway in Viking bay.

      No such problem at Ransgate of course Christine 😉

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