Prom ordeals spark action over access

Peter Lee's design for the promenade escape steps.
Peter Lee's design for the promenade escape steps.
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Council chiefs have agreed to close an access to the Promenade at Cleveleys during bad weather after hearing how a second pensioner was trapped by high tides.

Peter Lee, 77, said he had been forced to clamber over a four-foot sea wall after becoming trapped by ‘pounding’ waves when Wyre Council closed flood gates.

After the drama last December, the retired engineer, who worked at Fleetwood Docks and for United Utilities, sent the council designs for special escape stairs to help prevent other people from going through the same ordeal.

Mr Lee, who uses a walking stick, received an acknowledgement from an architect who promised that an engineer would respond.

He heard nothing more, but this week renewed his call for action after reading in The Gazette how a pensioner last month had to be led to safety from a similar position on the Promenade.

John Foggett, 54, who rescued the woman, said closed floodgates due to the high tides had meant there had been no easy exit - and that there was a lack of signage warning of the dangers.

Mr Lee, Mr Foggett and the woman he rescued had all entered the Promenade close to Rossall School.

After Mr Foggett had helped the pensioner, the council said members of the public had refused requests to leave the promenade

But now it says it will close off the access point whenever the flood gates are shut.

Reliving his experience, Mr Lee said darkness had fallen and there were gale force winds and a high tide when he went for his daily walk.

“It was only when I was close to the Victoria Road end that the waves were pounding several inches deep across the wall top and I was getting very wet,” he said.

“I was immediately alarmed and tried to get to the road side of the wall but was unable to. The wall is about four or five foot tall, a trivial problem for a young man but being infirm I was worried.”

Mr Lee, who was suffering from a serious lung infection, told how “in desperation” he had climbed on to the back of a bench about 18 inches from the wall. He threw his walking stick over and jumped onto the top of the wall, suffering bruising to his leg.

This week, the council said his escape steps were “not viable’ because people would be exiting the promenade onto the highway - a claim Mr Lee disputes, claiming, there is an embankment onto the road.

He said the authority’s lack of action and failure to respond to his suggestion had been “unacceptable” but has welcomed its decision to close the access during bad weather.

“It’s a step in the right direction and I hope it will help stop this happening to other people,” he said.

A council spokeswoman insisted t it warned of risks during high tides through storm boards, patrolling officers, lifeguards and the media. But she said: “We always aim to strike a balance between managing a genuine flood risk and unnecessarily restricting access to the seafront. However, in future, we will close off the promenade access point in question so that people don’t get caught out.”