Wheelchair users have spoken out about Wallingford's "absolutely atrocious" disabled access.

They say the historic town centre is nothing short of an obstacle course and are calling for urgent improvements to help people with disabilities.

Stroke victim Francis Burden, 87, said he had been forced to stop attending Wallingford Methodist Church in St Leonard's Square because there is no ramp.

Frustrated: Francis Burden, 87The electric twin-seater wheelchair that he and his arthritic wife, Madge, bought a year ago cannot get over the high kerb.

Mr and Mrs Burden, of Station Road, Wallingford, have been offered lifts to church by car, but want to be independent.

Mr Burden said: "I want to get close up to the door so Madge can get in. We've had lifts a few times but we don't want that. We don't want to have to wait around for people after the service, we want to do our own thing."

He added: "The council should change the kerb."

His complaint was backed by Patrick Wood, 68, whose wife, Dorothy, has used a wheelchair for six years following a stroke.

Mr Wood, also of Station Road, said: "Access in Wallingford has gone from bad to worse. The pavements are absolutely atrocious. Coming into town along Station Road, you take your life in your hands. Cars are parked half-way across the pavement, and you have to get around sign-boards and up and down the kerbs. Once you're in the centre, the cobbles are like a machine gun. It shouldn't be like that."

He added: "When we go to Spain, which is supposed to be one of the poorer countries in Europe, facilities for the disabled are a hundred per cent better than in Wallingford."

Steve Vinnicombe, a founder member of the Wallingford and District Access Committee, said the criticisms were correct.

Narrow pavements, insufficient disabled parking and conservation area planning restrictions were additional drawbacks, he said.

"Wallingford could be greatly improved, but it needs attention and money," he said.

Oxfordshire County Council access officer Deborah Whelan, said she would inspect the offending kerb in St Leonard's Square this week, but added that Wallingford's disabled access was no worse than in similar historic towns in the area.

She added: "We hope we can put a drop-kerb outside the church. But the reality is that there is a long waiting list for this type of work."

The council's deputy area engineer, Don Wheeler, warned it could be as long as a year before he had a gang in Wallingford capable of putting in a drop kerb "economically".

Methodist church lay preacher, Wendy Holt, said she would welcome "anything" that improved disabled access.