Overheard recently on Broadstairs seafront: “I don’t know why disabled people want to go to the beach — you’d think just sitting here looking at the sea would be enough!”
Well, my friend Amy, who died in December, would have loved to give an answer. She had lung cancer and the last time I saw her was in a wheelchair on the seafront, looking at the sea. She had no breath to use the steps, or transport to get to the harbour. The lift was closed, so her wish to just spend a short while on the beach — where she’d been with her grandchildren every summer for ten years — was impossible.
As for me, my view of the beach from a mobility scooter is through the railings. So how can we keep precious things like lifts open for those that need them so badly?
There’s an argument that facilities like toilets and lifts should be paid for by the users. Another overheard remark: “I wouldn’t mind paying to use the lift.” Well let’s look at how that might be done.
A paid council employee stands with a money bag and a set of tickets. Or there’s a fancy slot machine. Wow! That simple!
Well, if it’s that good an idea, why stop at the lift? You can already pay for a sunbed and beach umbrella. Toilets are an obvious choice next as they used to be paid for — spend a penny could become spend 50p — and don’t worry about the families using the back of the beach huts to save money….. beach patrols, paid for by the wonderful new source of revenue, could look out for cheaters.
But why not charge to go on the beach itself? More tickets on sale at the top of the steps or on the harbour? And even more jobs for the beach patrol, checking who sneaked on for free? And if you have to be rescued by lifeguards, well a grateful £50 would be appropriate.
In Victorian Ramsgate you had to pay to use the promenade with the best views. Brilliant idea! Fashionable. Kept the riffraff out.
The Margate Harbour Arm could charge admission, especially for a Turner sunset.
I think I’ve solved Thanet’s financial problems.
But hang on a minute — who’d actually come? One of our biggest sources of income is tourism and who wants to spend their money in a mean spirited place where they charge you to smell the flowers, and taking your family to the beach for a day could cost a fortune. Imagine two adults, two small kids, up and down on the lift, four quid, lavs for all three times, at least, £6 and little Jocasta being hauled out of the sea on her lilo perhaps a tenner. Who will come?
We do actually pay for our facilities through our taxes and the richer we are the more we pay —in theory. We don’t expect individuals to pay for things we want everyone to be able to use like roads, parks, crossings, steps to the beach etc etc.
Disabled people are among the poorest in the country and they might be asked to pay for their only route to the beach. Is that fair? Do people like me have to view the sea through bars forever?