Council gives disabled mother £20,000 for a new drive – then refuses planning permission

A disabled pre-school teacher had plans for a vital driveway for her mobility scooter which were rejected by her local council – although they gave her a £20,000 grant to build it.

Rachael Ardron suffers from severe arthritis in her knees, hips, back and neck and needs to drive easily to her house and charge her car overnight.

But plans for a lowered curb and driveway in front of the 49-year-old’s home in the leafy village of Charlton, near Andover, Hampshire, have been repeatedly opposed by council planning officials, 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 cane to support her and says the refusal is “ridiculous”.

Her occupational therapist suggested buying an electric MG ZS SUV, which is automatic and easy to access, and installing a charging station in front of her house.

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

Now that plans for her ride have been rejected twice, Rachael is considering trading in her current car for a petrol vehicle


David Clarke/Solent News)

Ms Ardron’s plans included a lowered curb and tarmac driveway, as well as a surfaced ‘hard drive’ for the vehicle to stand and charge in front of her £250,000 three-bedroom terraced house.

However, these plans were scrapped because the “development” would detract from the “character and appearance” of the area.

Planners rejected Ms Ardron’s appeal, saying the drive would undermine “the open feel” of the area and detract from its “lavish green character”.

TVBC also cited road safety concerns and “insufficient visibility” as reasons for the refusal, adding that Ms Ardron’s disability facilities grant has now been “closed”.

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

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

Mum of two, Rachael works as a part-time teacher at Charlton & District Preschool


David Clarke/Solent News)

“They said the driveway would stick out because it doesn’t fit in – but there are a lot of driveways here.

“They say it would be dangerous to withdraw, but it’s not dangerous at all. It’s like they have nothing better to do than reject my plans.

“I’m not the most disabled person, but I’m struggling.

“It frustrates me more than anything and I cried a lot about it.

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

“They say it hinders the rural setting… are you laughing?

“There are three driveways near my house and across the street is a huge, ugly parking lot that they dismantled for green space.

“Mine is more for my needs – it’s not like I want it to make my property stand out or add value.

“It’s supposed to help me get around. I need it.”

Rachael had hoped for a lowered curb and driveway at her home in Andover


David Clarke/Solent News)

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

Her car was paid for by her weekly Personal Independence Payments through the company Motability and was delivered with the charger installed at her home.

But the £20,000 grant for the driveway was awarded by TVBC before planners from the same council then decided the driveway could not really go ahead.

Ms Ardron added: “The bursary was given by TVBC: they put the bursary in one hand and said with the other I couldn’t have the ride done.

“I already had the car and charger installed at my home.

“I could not believe it.”

Now plans for her ride have been rejected twice. Ms Ardron, who lives with sons Jack, 21, a sports psychology student at Bournemouth University, and Mason, 18, a senior at Andover College, is considering swapping her current car for a petrol vehicle.

She is currently forced to go to the nearest garage at night to charge her car after replacing the fence in her front yard and being unable to charge the car at home.

The disabled teacher needs the driveway for her mobility scooter


David Clarke/Solent News)

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

“The government wants us to go electric, but if you try, they put obstacles in your way.

“Now I have to charge the car, which has only driven 150 miles on a full charge, at the local ESSO garage down the road.

“I get really scared of my car…last night I was down there at 9pm in the dark…and it was really cold.

“Now that the ride has been denied, I am speaking to Motability about switching to a petrol engine.

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

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

Stay home mum Mrs Twigg said: “We had no 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 teller, added: “The plans we saw didn’t really impact us so we figured it was fine.”

However, 77-year-old Angela Peacock, who lives across the street from Ms Ardron, said: “It wouldn’t bother me and I’m partially disabled myself so I can appreciate how she’s feeling.

“But some young drivers are speeding here and I lost two cats on this road.

“It might be dangerous to drive there as it’s a bit of a blind spot.”

A spokesperson for TVBC said of Ms Ardron’s refusals: “In 2020, an application for a Disability Facilities Grant was received for a lowered curb, paved entrance and pavement for disabled access to a property in Charlton.

“This application included external architectural plans that advised the applicant that planning permission would be required. The Council was also clear that no subsidy payment would be made until the appropriate approval had been obtained.

“Unfortunately, the subsequent planning application was rejected for a number of political reasons. Primarily because Hampshire County Council has raised significant motorway safety concerns due to insufficient visibility.

“Charlton Parish Council has also raised concerns about the dangers to pedestrians and motorists. The independent planning inspection also confirmed the decision and refused approval.

“As a result, the disability facilities grant case was closed and the applicant advised – with no money ever being sent from TVBC.

“Should the resident in question want to get in touch with our planning team again, we would be very happy to talk to you again.”

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