A DISABLED resident in Charlton has hit out at the borough council after she was refused planning permission for a driveway to accommodate her adapted car - just months after receiving grant funding to secure it.

In late 2020, Rachael Ardron - who suffers with arthritis in both her knees, hips, back and neck - told her occupational therapist that her mobility was deteriorating.

The 49-year-old, who lives on Armstrong Rise, suggested that an allocated disabled driving space outside her house would be helpful, but the health professional raised concerns about her falling while on the road, and instead referred her for an adapted car solution.

With the support of her occupational therapist, Rachael secured a grant of more than £20,000 from disability scheme Motability in late 2020, which allowed her to purchase the car in March 2021.

Due to lockdown, the mother-of-two was unable to travel to find the right car, and so managed to arrange a Zoom call to see the vehicle - an electric MG ZS SUV - at Richmond Cars in Southampton.

“Some days are better than others, but I'm on a lot of medication so [this car] gives me a lot of independence. It’s my everything,” said Rachael, who works as a preschool teacher.

SEE ALSO: Woman with arthritis calls for more benches in Andover

She had therefore had the car a little while before she realised that it only did 150 miles per charge, and that she was going to need a home charging point.

“Charging it was a nightmare,” she said.

“We are very limited in Andover for chargers. I needed a fast charge, because my sons couldn’t always come with me and sometimes I would run out of charge late at night and I would need to sit in the car in the dark on my own while it charged.”

She was initially told that getting a home charging point wouldn’t be possible until a driveway was installed outside her home. She applied to Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) for a grant to get this work done, which was approved. However this was pending planning permission - something Rachael says she wasn’t aware of at the time.

In the meantime she was offered a charger installation, and so she parked on the grass outside her home in order to use the charging point until the driveway work was done.

“As far as I was concerned, [the council] was happy that I was going to get this in. I had already taken the fence down. I didn’t think for any reason I couldn’t drive on my own garden twice a day, so that I was close to the house because of my falls.

“Then all of a sudden, I got someone from planning knocking on my door, asking what was happening with my driveway. They said I didn’t have a planning application.”

SEE ALSO: Andover double cancer survivor to run half marathon for charity

Rachael continued: “[They] didn’t think it would be an issue, but then five or six weeks later I got an email to say they had refused it due to it not fitting in with the environment.

“It’s a cul de sac! There’s no through traffic and there are other driveways on the road.

“They also said that the line of sight coming out would be poor, but there’s a car park right opposite!”

The council’s housing team also told Rachael she would need to pay to have the charging point removed, as this didn't have permission either. But she says this condition was removed after TVBC received proof that she is no longer parking her car directly in front of her home, or using the charging point.

“At the moment I’m parking on the road which is highly dangerous for me,” she said.

“I can’t walk unaided, and I’m unsteady on my feet. I’m getting so stressed out.”

Rachael is now in the process of applying for additional funding so that she can trade her vehicle for a petrol car which will also meet her needs.

“Coming out and just being to get in my car made a huge difference, a massive difference," she said.

“The government wants everyone to go green. It’s for health reasons, not for vanity, and it’s electric!

“[The charging point] is ugly, and I can’t even use it! I’ve just had enough. It’s like the different council departments don't even meet, it’s ridiculous."

A TVBC spokesperson, said: “A request for a disabled facilities grant was received in 2020 for a dropped kerb, tarmac access and hardstanding for disabled access at a property in Charlton. This request included external architectural plans, which advised the applicant that planning permission would be required. The council were also clear that no grant payment would be made until the relevant consent had been obtained.

“Unfortunately, the subsequent planning application was refused on multiple policy grounds. Primarily because Hampshire County Council raised significant concerns about highway safety due to inadequate visibility splays. Concerns were also raised by Charlton Parish Council about dangers to pedestrians and motorists. The independent Planning Inspectorate also upheld the decision and refused permission.

"Therefore, the disabled facilities grant case was closed and the applicant advised - with no money ever being sent by TVBC. Should the resident in question wish to re-engage with our planning team, we would be more than happy to have a further discussion.”

Message from the editor

Thank you for reading this story. We really appreciate your support.

Please help us to continue bringing you all the trusted news from your area by sharing this story or by following our Facebook page.