PARENTS of disabled children are right to be angry that Vale of White Horse District Council is refusing to provide fully-accessible toilets at Abbey Meadow.

It does not make sense to me that the council would spend £320,000 on a new play area full of equipment designed for disabled children but then refuse to provide toilets those same children will be able to use.

How frustrating it must be for a parent to know that there is finally a playground their child can enjoy, then find out there isn’t anywhere nearby for them to go to the toilet.

This is the latest in a series of problems with the Vale’s approach to refurbishing the facilities at Abbey Meadow.

Abbey Meadow should be a jewel in Abingdon’s crown. It is a lovely space by the river where families can enjoy themselves at no or low cost. It is regularly overflowing with people on summer weekends and after school. The water feature is particularly popular with parents of younger children.

It has the potential to draw people into the town, but the facilities badly needed improvements. Our local councils promised investment long ago, and they should have got to work on it much sooner.

First, they tried to make residents choose between refurbishing the open-air pool or investment in the play area. They came up with an initial cap on the amount they were willing to invest, despite the area suffering from under-investment for a long time.

After a big campaign by residents, they agreed to do both.

Parents then had to fight to ensure that both the play area and the pool, in turn, would be fully accessible so that everyone in our community would be able to enjoy the new facilities.

The issue was summarised perfectly by a constituent who contacted me. She said: "Yet again disabled families suffer because the world around is too difficult to engage with. Families are isolated behind their front doors. Not only the disabled family member suffers but also the siblings who already miss out on so much. Being the sibling of a disabled child is a daily struggle for many children. Even a simple trip to the park is often too difficult to provide.”

She went on to say “How much better for our families if those in power locally would support us with adequate provision. A [disabled] toilet in the Abbey Meadows would be a wonderful way to make struggling families feel welcomed, make simple days out feasible for those whose lives are severely impacted by disability and show the wide community that these people matter and count in our society. Who wouldn’t want to make this happen?”

The Vale’s attitude seems to be that they will do the minimum they are obliged to, to make these facilities accessible. I don’t think that’s good enough. They should be aiming to make their facilities as accessible as possible. Not only is that the right thing to do, it is also more cost-effective to do when a facility is built, rather than later.

By taking this approach I believe the Vale is letting down those residents who most need their council to get it right first time.

I hope they will think again.