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What happens when NIMBYs think disabled people “lower the tone” of a neighbourhood?

Disabled people in Rotherham face the indignity of their neighbours objecting to their home being accessible, as well as criticisms of their very presence in the area.

A brick bungalow with a driveway and a ramp.

24 Spinneyfield, Moorgate, Rotherham


Two access ramps were recently built to allow residents of a house in Moorgate, Rotherham to get in and out of their home and garden more independently. 24 Spinneyfield is supported housing, where disabled people live and carers or personal assistants go in to help them with the things they can’t manage.

The NIMBY drama kicked off in 2022, when the owner of the property, Rhodos Properties (No4), filed a planning application to build an annexe for a resident who was working towards living more independently. Neighbours objected to Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (RMBC), stating that the annexe would limit their light and cause more traffic.

Standard planning application fare so far.

They also argued that disabled people living there and receiving care amounted to turning the home into a business, which was not allowed in the deeds to the homes on Spinneyfield.

Would they also object to a home carer helping their parent who had a fall, or a babysitter coming to look after their kids while they go on a night out? Because unless that also makes them employers who are breaching the conditions in the deeds of their house, it is hard to argue that disabled people having carers come in and out are breaking the same rules. If residents really object to businesses in the area, are all landlords banned from Moorgate?

But it was when Rhodos Properties put in a retroactive planning application for two access ramps that Spinneyfield’s residents really began to revolt. The objections to the planning application are extensive – some still focus on the business aspect of the dwelling, while others are preoccupied by the people living there, as the Star reported yesterday.

One objection reports that some of the disabled residents went onto a neighbour’s drive, which is described in the complaint as “two serious incidents of trespass for several minutes”.

The same complainant also reported “one assault by thrown projectile,” while another says that people put rubbish in his mum’s bin.

The ramps, which had already been built, were described as “an eyesore in an area of Rotherham where residents are proud of their properties and maintain them well” and “not in keeping at all with other properties in the area”. They are additionally described as “unsightly” and “discordant”.

It’s true that ramps are rarely pretty, but being able to get in and out of your home is more important than aesthetics. If anything, it’s an argument for architects and designers to get more creative, like we are slowly starting to see with other accessibility equipment. Getting rid of the beige, the concrete and the grey helps a lot, creating items and structures that look less tedious.

But even tedium is better than inaccessibility.

Local residents also fear that having access ramps at one property will “lead to the devaluation of nearby properties”.

It is hard to respond to this seriously, other than to say that if somebody would pay less for your home because disabled neighbours can get in and out of their home more easily, they shouldn’t be allowed to buy the house. They’d be horrible neighbours.

The residents at 24 Spinneyfield also seem to have been subject to quite some scrutiny. One objector to the application says, “To my knowledge NO wheelchair residents [sic] have ever been catered for on the premises”, while others have been counting residents and carers.

Most disabled people can relate to this scrutiny. Whether it’s being watched when I get out of my car after parking in a Blue Badge zone (to judge if I deserve the space or not), being followed home by a man yelling about whether or not I need my mobility aid, or the commonplace “scrounger” jibes, we know that we are judged and unwelcome in this inaccessible world. The last thing we need is our neighbours noting our movements to complain about them as part of a council consultation process.

And while ramps are brilliant and reduce barriers for a whole range of disabled people – including but not limited to wheelchair users – the complainant who described them as “a predetermined plot to circumnavigate the planning procedures” is giving them far too much power.

Disabled people, like everybody else, have the right to get in and out of their home. Disabled people, like many others, share a home. Disabled people, like many others, need help sometimes and are entitled to receive this at home.

Yesterday, RMBC granted the planning application on the basis that:

  • 24 Spinneyfield is categorically not a care home
  • it “provides important facilities for vulnerable adults”
  • the comings and goings are not excessive
  • the railings and ramps are appropriate and common
  • complaints about residents going on driveways and using neighbours’ bins are “not untypical neighbour disputes”.

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