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‘Disabled people are being ignored,’ says activist and wheelchair user

Transport schemes and attractions making life harder for those with mobility issues

23 September, 2021 — By Harry Taylor

Mik Scarlet outside Camden’s stables market in Chalk Farm Road

A DISABILITY activist has said disabled people are feeling forced out of the borough as their concerns are not being taken seriously and popular landmarks are inaccessible.

Mik Scarlet, an access consultant, said projects by the council had made life harder for him and other disabled people and added that Camden’s famous Stables Market – one of the area’s biggest attractions for tourists – was virtually impossible to go to for him in his wheelchair.

The rustic-style cobbles make it too hard to move around without the threat of being thrown out of it, he said.

The 56-year-old has lived in Camden for more than 16 years, and has spent his career advising companies, firms and public bodies on how to make their buildings and services more accessible.

He said: “I’ve just got a new wheelchair and I wheel into the Chalk Farm Road entrance and within probably a couple of feet I hit a pothole and nearly get thrown out of my chair because the cobbles are so uneven.

“You can’t keep going ‘it’s old, leave it’, the council should be trying to make it so that places like that make their provisions safe and accessible. It’s hard to walk on those cobbles at the best of times.”

He added: “When they were laid originally they were flat, and they’ve been rounded by use. If you want them to look how they were when they were laid, they would be flat.

“If you’re visually impaired you don’t know what’s coming next. You’re walking along and your guide dog’s guiding you and saying that people are coming, they’re not going to tell you that uneven cobbles are coming. You’ll just hit them and go smack. It mystifies me that this stuff gets passed.”

LabTech, which own and run Camden Markets, told the New Journal it had an obligation to protect the heritage of the markets, included its listed cobbles.

Mr Scarlet has been a wheelchair user since the age of 15, after having cancer as a baby. He also uses a hand cycle.

New transport schemes in Camden also made life tougher, he added, as attempts to reduce car traffic did not help those who had to use them to get around and get to medical appointments.

“I can’t use any of the public transport in Camden as barely any of the tube stations are accessible,” he said. “If I want to go any distance in London I have to drive, but now my journey has been lengthened massively because of these changes. I’ve never felt as disabled as I do now, living in Camden.”

He said he supported the aims of the measures to make Camden greener and have less traffic – but there needed to be proper support given to people who aren’t able to walk or cycle.

A spokesperson for LabTech said: “It is our obligation to care and protect the heritage of the market and we make every effort to do so. The cobbles are listed and of historic significance to the site.

“With this responsibility front-of-mind we often repair and re-set areas of the historic paving to improve access and circulation, taking the utmost care to protect the materials and general character of the destination.”

They added: “Further to this, our inclusive ambitions for the entire LabTech estate have recently seen the addition of a changing place at the newly launched destination Hawley Wharf Camden to ensure we are going above and beyond to provide the best facilities possible for everyone to experience and enjoy these areas.”

A spokesperson for Camden Council said: “The landowner is ultimately responsible for complying with current regulations. Camden Council urges all property and land owners in the borough to work with the council and local disability groups to make their buildings and land as fully accessible as possible.”

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