‘Make South Shields beach wheelchair-friendly’, says disabled rights campaigner

Lauren Benham, pictured with friend Georgia Fountaine, says Sandhaven beach should be open to all.
Lauren Benham, pictured with friend Georgia Fountaine, says Sandhaven beach should be open to all.

A determined disabled rights crusader’s bid to make a South Tyneside beauty spot open to all is continuing to prove a huge online hit.

Lauren Benham launched an internet petition calling on council chiefs to install a wheelchair-friendly ramp, linking sand to sea at Sandhaven Beach, South Shields.

I have been overwhelmed by the support.

Lauren Benham

The petition has already attracted nearly 900 signatures in less than two weeks – closing in on her target of 1,000.

The tenacious 21-year-old has been overwhelmed with the surge in support for her pioneering plan.

Miss Benham, from Barbour Avenue, South Shields, kick-started the plan after being left “heartbroken” by disabled friend Georgia Fountaine’s admission that she often feels like she is a burden on trips out.

Miss Benham is hoping for talks with South Tyneside Council about the access revamp once she hits her grand target.

She said: “Georgia told me that sometimes she feels like she is a burden. It was heartbreaking for me to hear that.

“I’m not usually the kind of person who would start a petition, but everyone wanted it to happen, so I took it on myself.

“I have been overwhelmed by the support.”

Tracey Dixon, South Tyneside Council’s lead member for area management and community safety, said: “While this idea in principle is a good one, there are a number of issues which would need to be considered, including ownership of the land and the impact of such a development on the beach’s natural function as a coastal defence.”

To view the petition, log onto www.change.org and search for Wheelchair Access at South Shields Beach.