Disabled mum has driveway plans rejected despite council giving her £20k grant to build it

A disabled preschool teacher has had plans for a vital driveway for her electric mobility car refused by her local council – despite them awarding her a £20,000 grant to build it.

Rachael Ardron suffers from severe arthritis in her knees, hip, back and neck and requires a drive to easily access her house and charge her car overnight.

But plans for a dropped kerb and driveway in front of the 49-year-old’s home in the leafy village of Charlton, near Andover, have been repeatedly rejected by council planning officers who say the drive would ruin the rural ‘character’ of the area .

The mother-of-two often suffers falls due to her instability and is forced to walk with a stick to support her, and says the refusal is ‘ridiculous’.

Her occupational therapist suggested getting an electric MG ZS SUV, which is automatic and easily accessible, and installing a charging point in front of her house.

But after getting a grant, the car and installing the charger Mrs Ardron was told plans for a driveway on her front lawn had been rejected by a Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) planning committee.

Mrs Ardron’s plans included a dropped kerb and tarmac drive as well as a surfaced ‘hardstanding’ where the vehicle could sit and be charged outside her £250,000 three-bedroom terraced house.

But these plans were rejected due to the affect the ‘development’ would have on the ‘character and appearance’ of the area.

Rejecting Mrs Ardron’s appeal, planners said the drive would ‘erode that open feel’ of the area and impact its ‘spacious green character’.

TVBC also cited road safety concerns and ‘inadequate visibility splays’ as reasons for the rejection, and added Mrs Ardron’s disabled facilities grant had since been ‘closed’.

Mother of two Mrs Ardron, who works as a part time teacher at Charlton & District Preschool, argues many residents already have similar drives.

“The whole thing is just ridiculous,” she said.

“They said the driveway would stick out as it doesn’t fit in – but there are lots of driveways around here.

“They say it would be dangerous pulling out, but it isn’t dangerous at all. It’s like they have nothing better to do but reject my plans.

“I’m not the most disabled person but I do struggle. It makes me more frustrated than anything, and I have raised a lot over it.

“I don’t understand their logic in not letting me have the driveway. What difference does it make to them to drop the kerb?

“They say it obstructs the rural setting… are you having a laugh? There are three driveways near my house and there’s a massive, ugly car park opposite that they got rid of a green area to build.

“Mine’s more for my needs – it isn’t like I want it to make my property stand out or to increase its value. It’s to help me get around. I need it.”

Mrs Ardron’s plans were lodged in July last year and were rejected in October. She appealed against the refusal, which was rejected in February this year.

Her car was paid for through her weekly Personal Independence Payments via company Motability and was delivered along with the charger which was installed at her house.

But the £20,000 grant for the driveway was awarded by TVBC, before planners at the same council then ruled the driveway couldn’t actually go ahead.

Mrs Ardron added: “The grant was awarded from TVBC: they gave me the grant in one hand and with the other said I couldn’t have the drive done.

“I had already got the car and the charger installed at my house. I couldn’t believe it.”

Now plans for her drive have been twice refused, Mrs Ardron – who lives with sons Jack, 21, a Sports Psychology student at Bournemouth University, and Mason, 18, in his final year at Andover College – is considering swapping her current car for a petroleum vehicle.

She is currently forced to go to her nearest garage to charge her car at night, after she replaced the fencing in her front garden and can no longer charge the car at home.

“I just don’t understand,” Mrs Ardron said.

“The government want us to go electric, but when you try to put obstacles in your way. Now I have to charge the car, which only has 150 miles at full charge, at the local ESSO garage down the road.

“I get really bad anxiety with my car… last night I was down there at 9pm, in the dark… and it was really cold. Now that the drive’s been refused, I’m talking with Motability about changing cars to to petrol one.

“My two sons are brilliant, and I couldn’t ask for two better children, but I wanted the driveway to get some independence back so I wouldn’t have to rely on them so much.”

Next-door neighbors Emma and Liam Twigg, both 33, said they had no problem with Mrs Ardron’s proposed plans for a drive.

Stay at home mum Mrs Twigg said: “We didn’t have any problems with it – it didn’t bother us at all. We don’t drive so if she needs it, it doesn’t really affect us.”

Husband Liam, a bank worker, added: “The plans we saw didn’t really have an impact on us, so we thought it was fine.”

However, 77 year old Angela Peacock, who lives just across the road from Mrs Ardron, said: “It wouldn’t bother me, and I am partially disabled myself so I can appreciate how she feels.

“But some young drivers do go too fast along here, and I have lost two cats on this road.

“It could be dangerous having a drive there, as it is a bit of a blind spot.”

A spokesperson for TVBC said of Mrs Ardron’s rejections: “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.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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