Locked cemetery gates 'stopping people with disabilities attending graves'

Disabled mourners are struggling to attend graves in a cemetery after gates were locked.

Councillors Paul and Chris Bott at the site with the opening times
Councillors Paul and Chris Bott at the site with the opening times

Darlaston South councillor Paul Bott has been speaking out about the situation at James Bridge Cemetery in Darlaston, where he claims residents have told him the gates to the older part of the cemetery have been locked.

Councillor Bott said the residents had said that access to the cemetery, which is run by Walsall Council, was much more difficult for people with disabilities or riding mobility scooters on the path.

He said: "I've had a lot of constituents contact me over the past week to tell me that the gates on the old part of the cemetery have been locked at weekends.

"This has meant that people with disabilities or riding scooters haven't been able to access the old part of the cemetery to attend to the graves onsite.

"I've spoken to someone onsite and they've told me that senior management had asked for the gates to be closed, which they shouldn't be as there's a timetable for when the site should be open or closed."

Councillor Bott said there were other issues with the cemetery, including increased amounts of litter and a lack of markings on the car park for disabled people.

He said: "There's no markings on the car park, so anyone can park on the car park, and as there's no disabled car parking, it could mean disabled people having to park on the road and having difficult access to the site.

"The gates being closed mean people can't drive up to the graves and attend them, plus there is an appalling amount of rubbish piling up on the site and the footpaths are in poor condition.

"We are meant to be having a Remembrance Sunday event here in a few weeks at the Commonwealth War graves and it's going to be difficult for people to come onto the site without improvements and those gates being opened.

Councillor Paul Bott has expressed his frustration at the condition of the cemetery and gates being locked

Councillor Bott said he had also contacted the council to ask about the closure, but said no one had contact him back to explain why the gates were closed.

He said: "I think it's a bit discourteous that management from Walsall Council haven't contacted me and no one has even contacted the local councillors to explain why the gates are closed.

"What I want to see happen is for both car parks to be open and a timetable set up for when the gates are open to allow people to have access to the site and for the site to be looked after better."

A spokesman for Walsall Council said, “Maintenance work at the lodge at James Bridge Cemetery has required a skip to be placed very close to the vehicular access gate temporarily.

"Although access is not affected during the week, the gates have been kept closed during the weekend for health, safety and staffing reasons.

"It is expected that the work will be completed in the next two weeks and access will be back to normal at the weekends.

"Parking is available on site for use during opening hours, seven days a week.

"A request has been placed with highways to include a marked disabled bay at the location at their earliest opportunity.

"This cemetery opened in 1857 and therefore not unexpectedly, the condition of some of the pathways has deteriorated.

"Some paths are quite narrow and others have been widened due to excessive use and being mistaken for narrow roads.

"Officers managing the site are aware of these concerns and have made a bid for funding to make improvements.

"Clean and Green visit the site regularly, as part of their schedule to ensure it is kept clean however and additional litter pick has been requested due to the concerns raised."

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