A SUPPORT group claims the disabled community is being discriminated against as many are unable to access the coastal path.

Jan Thomas, chief officer of TheFDF, has been campaigning for four years about the A-Frame barriers along the Welsh Coastal Path as she said many disabled people who have large wheelchairs cannot fit through.

She said the barriers were put in place to stop anti-social behaviour, but that is no longer an issue, adding: "The disabled community should not be discriminated against because of the unacceptable behaviour of a third party."

TheFDF, formerly Flintshire Disability Forum, helps hundreds of disabled people across Flintshire and Wrexham and offers support and group activities.

Jan said: "They buy their mobility scooters to fit their needs. The coastal path is for families but disabled people belong to families and if they want to go along it, they should be able to.

"Some of these people have life limiting conditions, they can't just wait around for the council. If motorbikes are the issue they need to deal with that, not ban disabled people."

A meeting was held recently, organised by Cllr Carolyn Thomas, and it was agreed future decisions about the access to the Coastal Path should include disabled people themselves.

Cllr Thomas said she organised the meeting after seeing concerns around accessibility and as a new cabinet member, she can look at this through fresh eyes.

Coastal rangers, wheelchair users, Jan Thomas and representatives from Flintshire Council were all present where it was discussed how they could go forward.

Cllr Thomas, who raised the issue with cabinet colleagues, said: "I do understand that not everyone can fit through, it is something that we definitely need to review.

"Going forward, we need to make sure when we consult, we consult with everyone involved. It would be great if we could remove all the frames and police the area but we are short of police. It's something we need to look at definitely."

The barriers were put in place over ten years ago to stop off-road motorcycles causing concern in the area, but Jan said she is aware this is no longer a problem.

She said Mark Isherwood AM has been a huge help in the fight since the beginning.

Mr Isherwood said: "Wheelchair size is determined by their physical size and impairment. That doesn't mean they don't have a right to independent living.

"The Welsh Government is in the process, rightly, of updating its framework for Action on Independent Living. It was originally non-statutory but it's guidance to local authorities and others about how they are supposed to work to remove the barriers, work with disabled people and communities and enable them to have a voice, choice, control and independence.

"Neither Welsh Government or any opposition parties expect local authorities to ignore that.

"A huge number of people who need wheelchairs, and progressively bigger and more complex wheelchairs, are people with progressive neurological conditions and this just makes me personally furious. How dare they be so arrogant."

Andrew Farrow, chief officer for planning, environment and economic development at Flintshire Council, said: "The council needs to ensure that appropriate controls are in place to prevent illegal access to paths and sites, including the Wales Coast Path, by off road motorcycles for the safety of all countryside users and we firmly believe that the Council is in compliance with the requirements of the Equalities Act and disability access improvements also form part of the new draft rights of way improvement plan.

"However, council officers met with members of the Flintshire Disability Forum, a number of wheelchair users and local residents earlier this week to discuss access issues around the A frames positioned along the Wales Coast Path and concerns were expressed that large electric wheelchairs are unable to go through the A frames.

"It was agreed that a further meeting would be arranged to include other interested parties, such as landowners and community groups with a view to identifying a ‘pilot area’ where different approaches for disabled access could be trialled."