A recent plea by a group of elderly residents to have a handrail installed near their home has raised the issue of who is responsible for maintaining public footpaths.
For the last two years, the residents of a block of flats in Sheffield have been fighting for a handrail to be installed on Wilson Road, Endcliffe.
The block in question sits atop a steep hill and they argue that without the handrail they are at risk of slipping and injuring themselves, especially in wintry weather.
After asking both their housing trust as well as Sheffield Council for help, the residents were told two years ago that if they got planning permission they could have the handrail.
Unfortunately however, despite obtaining planning permission, their housing association have told them it isn’t possible to install the handrail. Furthermore, Sheffield council have said they are aware of the request and will make a decision on whether funding can be allocated towards the handrail in 2016.
These elderly residents are simply asking for a preventative measure to be installed to protect them from the risk of injury. Wilson Road is a public footpath and so comes under the responsibility of the local Highway Authority.
The local Highway Authority is responsible for maintaining and repairing roads, cycle tracks, walkways, and footpaths over which the public has a right of passage.
In this case, they have a duty to ensure all reasonable care on their part is taken to maintaining footpaths to prevent Accidents in Public Places from occurring.
Injuries caused by slips and trips unsurprisingly increase during autumn and winter. We understand that local authority funding across the board is tight, but for a group of elderly residents to have to wait three years for a simple handrail to be installed is simply unacceptable.
Tristan Hallam is a Senior Personal Injury Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK.
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