Only 5 beaches in Dorset have council-funded wheelchair mats – Swanage set to become the sixth

Only 5 beaches in Dorset have council funded wheelchair mats as one council has announced that wheelchair accessible mats will soon be available at another beach by July 2022. Swanage Council mats will be placed near the lifeguard hut and used. throughout the summer season at Swanage Beach.

The news comes as Dorset Live can reveal that in the entire county only five beaches have accessible beach mats provided by local authorities. This means that although many beaches have wheelchair accessible promenades, people are often unable to reach the beach or the sea itself.

Mats on four beaches are provided by BCP and Dorset Council. Three separate mats are provided on Weymouth beach by Weymouth City Council. The mats are placed on the sand, providing a stable surface for wheelchair users to reach the beach and the sea.

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Dorset beaches with council-provided wheelchair accessible mats are:

  • Boscombe
  • sandbanks
  • Lyme Regis
  • Monmouth Lyme Regis
  • Weymouth

Bridport councilors have also agreed that they will attempt to provide wheelchair accessible mats for West Bay Beach. However, as the beach is owned by Dorset Council, talks between the two are currently underway.

Cllr Iyengar, portfolio holder of the BCP Council for Tourism and Active Health, said: “I agree that we can do a lot more to make our waterfront welcoming and easy to navigate for everyone. We we are looking for other ways to ensure that all visitors are able to savor what is already recognized as some of the best coastline in the world.”

Facilities provided by the BCP council also include sand wheelchairs, four of which are made available by the council throughout the BCP area. However these are not suitable for all wheelchair users, they require someone to push the wheelchair and are only available on a first come first served basis with a £50 cash deposit.

A spokesperson for Dorset Council explained that although the county council only provides two sets of mats, some beaches in Dorset are not owned by the council. They said: “The beaches and the land leading to them are owned by a number of organisations. These owners include the Crown Estate, the National Trust, private landowners and various town councils.

“We own certain beach areas such as Lyme Regis Front Beach and Monmouth Beach where we have accessible mats.

“Dorset’s public sector organizations work together to ensure that services are delivered through the efficient use of public land and buildings. This work is called the Dorset Joint Asset Management Programme. More d information about the work of this group can be found at https://www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/planning-buildings-land/public-land-and-buildings/working-together-to-use-public-land-and-buildings.”

What beachfront facilities are available for wheelchair users?

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole

BCP Cllr Mohan Iyengar, portfolio holder for tourism and active health, said: “On our seafront we have accessible parking available on the promenade between Bournemouth and Boscombe piers, accessible toilets on the seafront for easier access to the sand, beach wheelchairs fitted with balloon tires available on loan from Bournemouth, Boscombe, Branksome Chine and Sandbanks beach offices and Mobi-Mats to assist users wheelchairs to move easily from the promenade on the sand and closer to the sea in place between May and September.

“We have introduced the first fully disabled accessible beach huts in the UK, designed in consultation with disabled beach users to form part of an improved accessible facilities center in Boscombe. In addition, electric barbecues of Fisherman’s Walk are specially designed for ease of access to the cooktop by seated adults.

“Beaches with easier access and nearby parking in the Christchurch area include Gundimore, Avon and Friars Cliff.”

According to the BCP Council website, beach offices in Bournemouth, Boscombe, Branksome Chine and Sandbanks each offer a sand wheelchair with balloon tires between 9.30am and 4.30pm, May to September. These are loaned out on a first come, first served basis in exchange for a refundable cash deposit of £50.

Mobi-Mats are available between May and September from Sandbanks and Boscombe Beach to enable wheelchair users to move from the promenade to the sand.

Lyme Regis

Lyme Regis has two beach accessibility mats funded by Dorset Council which are made of Terragard event flooring. One is on Front Beach (near the central groyne) and the other is on Monmouth Beach (at the far end beyond the static caravans).

The mats can only be used during the summer months, as during the fall and winter months they are removed due to high tides and regular storms. Three beach chairs are also available: the Hippocampe, a Tundra chair and a Mobi chair (for use at sea).

Weymouth

Weymouth beach has access mats in three areas: one near the new toilet block, one opposite M&S and one on the dog beach. These are removed in the winter to prevent storm damage.

The town also has two beach wheelchairs. The handicapped toilet and changing room area is equipped with a winch, a changing bench and space for two carers.

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