BT blocks disabled pensioner's driveway

Sarah Coles
James Godman in his drive
James Godman in his drive

James Godman, a disabled 67-year-old former gas worker, returned from a holiday to find that BT had installed a big green broadband box right in front of his driveway. It means his carer can no longer park at his house, and he has been told there's nothing he can do about it.

He told The Mirror that he and his wife had gone away together, shortly before she died, and they found the box when they returned. He complained to BT, and asked for them to move it, but he has finally lost his two-year battle to get it moved.

Portsmouth News reported that he has a double driveway at his home in Porchester, Hampshire, which allows him and his carer to park side-by-side at the house. However, with the box in place, there's nowhere for his carer to put her car. To make matters worse, the council also painted double yellow lines behind his home, so his carer cannot park there either.

The BT broadband box
The BT broadband box

Is this fair?

The company is within its rights. While the whole of the front garden is turned over to parking, only one side has a dropped kerb, so the other side is not technically a driveway. Legally, because the box is being placed on public land, the company had no obligation to contact Godman and inform him of the change.

BT told the `Mirror: "Before installing any street cabinets, we make sure robust planning goes into the best possible location to provide maximum service. Like all our cabinets, this one complies with all the relevant regulation."

However, as Godman points out, it wouldn't have been difficult to put the box a metre or so down the road, where it would not have inconvenienced anyone. BT's decision to block access to the front of his house was at the very least thoughtless.
Parking nightmares

Being able to park at home is something many people take for granted, so when the right is lost, it can be horribly distressing.

In November last year we reported on the retiree in Clifton in Nottingham who was shocked when the council blocked access to her drive and told her she'd never be able to use it again. It was particularly upsetting because she had just spent a small fortune on paving her driveway. She said she knew when she bought the house that she would be affected by the widening of the main road nearby, but had no idea she would lose access to her drive.

In January we reported on the 26-year-old who had received £18,500 in parking tickets for parking in front of her own garage. There are double yellow lines in front of the garage, but a wide cobbled area between the lines and her garage - which she parks on. The company says this is public land, and she doesn't have the right to park there. She argues that she's parking on her own driveway and will fight the tickets all the way to court.

If you cannot park at your own home, not only is there all the impracticality of having to park and walk - especially when you've just been to the supermarket - but there's also the fear that a lack of parking will make your home difficult to sell. As we reported earlier this week, it's the issue that's third most likely to put people off buying a house - after damp and the property being in a poor state of repair. Some 55% of people wouldn't buy somewhere without parking, which is major proportion of potential buyers to lose overnight.

In all of these cases the authorities insist they are following all the regulations, and that the homeowner has no grounds for complaint. The question is whether this would make you feel any better if you suddenly realised you could no longer park at home?

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