Scooter scheme set for another trial run

A mobility scooter hire scheme for shoppers in Sudbury town centre is being investigated once again.

Town councillors are keen to start a ShopMobility scheme, similar to that operated by St Edmundsbury Borough Council in Bury St Edmunds and Haverhill, in which shoppers can become members for £5 per year and hire pre-booked scooters and wheelchairs for £1.50 a time or £3.50 per day to help them get around.

A similar scheme was looked into by the town council in March 2009 as a survey and small-scale trial was held on Market Hill, but the idea never materialised after funding issues and problems finding volunteers to help run the project.

Speaking at Sudbury Town Council’s highways and footpaths committee meeting last week, councillor Jack Owen said: “We thought it was a good, worthwhile scheme to think about and it is one that would help people with disabilities.”

He said he thought TGA, a mobility scooter specialist based on Sudbury’s Woodhall Business Park, would be open to an agreement on hiring and maintenance of the vehicles.

Jacqui Howells, deputy town clerk, said St Edmundsbury Borough Council had 10 scooters and four wheelchairs which were booked between 100 and 160 times each month through the tourist information centre in Bury and the council’s offices in Haverhill.

“We thought, maybe as a trial, two or three could be hired for the purposes of seeing if it is worthwhile,” said Mrs Howells. “It is something extra that we can offer to the public.”

Councillor Nigel Bennett questioned whether parking spaces for the scooters would need to be in place before a trial could take place, while Mr Owen said they would need to be next to shops and services.

Mr Bennett said part of the Bury St Edmunds scheme, which allows users to pick up and drop off their equipment from the town’s bus station, could be implemented in Sudbury in future.

“When the Hamilton Road Quarter project comes through, we could do it there too,” he said.

Councillor Adrian Osborne raised the point that the scheme had been trialled by the last council and Mrs Howells said issues such as storage and transport of the vehicles and administration of the scheme would need to be investigated further in the coming months.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Owen said he hoped a trial could be run in the summer.