‘Like walking off the edge of a cliff’

Pavement perils: But Kirklees Council insists it has a robust system of safety checks for its pavements.
Pavement perils: But Kirklees Council insists it has a robust system of safety checks for its pavements.
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Kirklees Council has spent £750,000 in just five years on compensation for people who have fallen on cracked and uneven pavements.

In figures provided by the council, the cost of settling the 87 successful claims by pedestrians who have had accidents on the authority’s pavements since September 2008 was £766,696.95.

The figures come after charity Guide Dogs UK claimed the state of Britain’s pavements is leaving blind people feeling “trapped in their own homes” as they worry about injury.

Debbie Linford, the charity’s engagement officer for West Yorkshire, said: “You wouldn’t have to think twice about an uneven paving slab if you had good eyesight, but to someone who is blind, this can be like walking off the edge of a cliff.

“It is a problem that we encounter all the time when we speak to service users, but often it is not until someone has an accident until it gets reported.”

Guide Dogs UK’s chief executive Richard Leaman said: “Councils must prioritise dangerous pavements if blind and partially sighted people, as well as people with other disabilities, are to have the same freedom as everyone else. For many, it can be the difference between being able to set out with confidence or being trapped at home.”

The amount paid in pavement accident compensation by Kirklees is one of the highest in West Yorkshire. An FOI request by Guide Dogs UK showed that, since spring 2009, Leeds City Council spent in excess of £500,000 on the claims, while Calderdale shelled out only £79,790 and Bradford £215,578.

The figures given by Kirklees show the local authority has spent £371,782 on claims since September 2009.