Severely sight impaired woman worried repairs to Toddbrook Reservoir will take away her independence

A woman who is so severely sight impaired she is on the waiting list for a guide dog is worried repairs to Toddbrook Reservoir will take away the independence she has worked so hard to achieve by moving the footpath through Whaley Bridge Memorial Park.

Friday, 26th November 2021, 11:11 am

For 23-year-old Laura O’Boyle the repairs due to take place at Toddbrook next year are filling her with dread.

Over the last two years she has been trying to gain more independence and can walk from her home on Reservoir Road into the town through the park but the essential repairs will remove the path which has become her safe route.

She said: “I have worked so hard to get where I am now with walking on my own - I’m just very worried these repairs will rob me of the independence I have worked so hard to gain.”

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Laura fears the repair plan will take away the independence she has worked so hard to achieve

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During the repairs, which are due to start in spring 2022 by the Canal and River Trust, Laura’s safe routes will be lost and another footpath will be installed but she says it will be unsuitable for wheelchair users, prams and those with sight problems.

Laura said: “The proposed path is not safe, there are lots of exposed tree roots making it uneven. There will be leaves falling on the path too and it’s closer to the water so it will be damper and slippy which means it will be inaccessible to people like me.

"I am not against the works to restore the dam.

Laura O'Boyle on her regular route which she has spent two years becoming familiar with

“I just want a safe and accessible route from my home on Reservoir Road into the village so I do not lose my independence.

"The current plans do not provide this.”

Laura has a genetic condition which worsened as she has got older and in recent years she has been on the waiting list for a guide dog.

To meet the criteria to get a guide dog Laura must show she can walk three routes which currently she can but all three of them pass through the park.

Damage to the dam wall at Toddbrook Reservoir was discovered in 2019.

She added: “I don’t feel there was any consideration to all users of the park when these plans were proposed and they are discriminating against people like me and I’m scared this will push me back on the waiting list for a guide dog if I forget how to walk the routes once the repair work is finished.”

Damage to the dam wall was discovered in August 2019. A permanent repair project is due to commence next year costing between £12m and £16m.

Addressing Laura’s concerns, a spokesperson for the Canal and River Trust said: “We’re sorry the Toddbrook Reservoir repairs and plans for the access and compound around Memorial Park may potentially cause difficulties for Ms O’Boyle.

"We will be contacting her to discuss how we can assist in finding a workable solution.

“Unfortunately, in order to deliver the repairs safely, there will inevitably be some temporary disruption in the area and we are liaising with local residents to minimise its impact.

"Our planning application outlines some of the measures to keep local residents safe throughout this process, including the appointment of a traffic liaison officer. Construction traffic will be managed by a member of staff holding ‘stop’ and ‘go’ signs rather than traffic lights.”