Video: Stairway to heaven is hell for disabled drinkers at Bodmin's Chapel An Gansblydhen pub
A PUB chain has banned disabled people in wheelchairs from using a ramp to get into its premises in Bodmin.
JD Wetherspoon converted a former Methodist church into the Chapel An Gansblydhen pub and retained the steep steps leading to its entrance.
Wheelchair users and other people with impaired mobility have been using a ramp beside the pub since it opened in 2008, but JD Wetherspoon has now prohibited them from doing so, and yesterday morning blocked access to the ramp with metal gates.
The company says it has done so on health and safety grounds.
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Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: "We can confirm that with immediate effect Wetherspoon will not let people in wheelchairs use the ramp.
"The pub is a listed building and as a result we are unable to offer disabled access.
"However, we know that a number of customers have been using the ramp, which is intended for service deliveries, as their way of entering the pub.
"This is not a decision taken lightly by Wetherspoon; however, the risk of someone in a wheelchair going up a very steep gradient to the pub is not one that we are prepared to take.
"We will be putting signage up to the effect that the ramp is for service deliveries only.
"We understand that this decision will cause upset among wheelchair users. However, the extremely steep gradient of the ramp means that the risk of someone injuring themselves on Wetherspoon property is too high.
"We will continue to look at a way of allowing access to those with disabilities.
"However, the fact that it is listed, makes changes to the building difficult."
Sarah Thomas, who raised £5,000 with a Twitter appeal involving TV celebrities to buy a specialised wheelchair trike for her disabled son Luke, said she was appalled by the decision and it would not only affect the disabled.
"Luke and I go to Wetherspoons about five times a week, but now it seems we're not welcome there; I'm so angry," she said.
"The ramp is also used by a huge number of young mothers. The pub's packed with pushchairs at lunchtime; it seems to be a meeting-place for them, and there's always a queue waiting to come down the ramp when Luke and I go up. I'm furious at what's happened."
A spokesperson for the charity Disability Cornwall said the company might have breached the Disability Discrimination Act by not providing access for wheelchair users to everyday services.
"By not allowing people to use the service ramp it would seem they are putting the importance of goods over that of people, and perhaps they should start talking to us about what they should be providing," she said.
JD Wetherspoon says it is hampered by building regulations governing the grade two listed building, and its plans to put a disabled access ramp on the other side of the old church where the gradient was not as steep were blocked by planning officers.
The Disability Discrimination and Equality Act does not override other legislation such as listed building or planning legislation.