‘Dis­abled peo­ple won’t be able to use shop toilets’

Cam­paign­ers say plans to shut pub­lic loos are im­prac­ti­cal

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Curry House Fire - By Vicky Cas­tle

A dis­abil­ity rights group has warned the coun­cil’s plans to close pub­lic toilets could have a dis­as­trous im­pact.

Ash­ford Bor­ough Coun­cil (ABC) had pro­posed to close both pub­lic toilets at the top of New Rents and in the Vicarage Lane car park due to prob­lems with van­dal­ism, crime, drug use, flood­ing and higher costs.

Coun­cil­lors and res­i­dents raised their con­cerns and cabi­net mem­bers made a quick U-turn and an­nounced New Rents would re­main open.

But Fran­coise Mont­ford, leader of the In­de­pen­dence and Ac­cess Mat­ters group, based in Ald­ing­ton, said the loss of toilets at Vicarage Lane is still im­prac­ti­cal, awk­ward and poorly thought out.

She said: “Where is ABC’s ra­tio­nale be­hind the re­moval of any pub­lic con­ve­niences?

“Surely we all pay for this ser­vice through our coun­cil tax and ABC have a duty of care to keep Vicarage Lane pub­lic toilets are un­der threat by coun­cil plans them clean, se­cured and in good work­ing or­der at all times.

“Not only is one toi­let not enough, but bear­ing in mind the fast grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of Ash­ford the al­ter­na­tive pro­pos­als are im­prac­ti­cal.”

Mrs Mont­ford, a wheel­chair user, said dis­abled peo­ple could face a dif­fi­culty ac­cess­ing toilets in shops, which may not be up to the same dis­abled friendly stand- ards as the pub­lic loos.

She added: “These al­ter­na­tives will be a no-go area for dis­abled peo­ple us­ing large mo­bil­ity scoot­ers or pow­ered wheel­chairs, who may not be able to walk or can only walk a very short dis­tance.

“They will have to drive through rows of ta­bles and chairs to reach the premises’ toilets, which could be awk­ward or im­pos­si­ble.

“This de­ci­sion has been made with an ob­vi­ous lack of aware­ness of the com­plex needs of dis­abled peo­ple and we ask ABC to go back to the draw­ing board.”

In­de­pen­dence and Ac­cess Mat­ters is a dis­abil­ity group run and con­trolled by dis­abled peo­ple, deal­ing with ac­cess is­sues.

For more in­for­ma­tion con­tact the Wheel­chair Users’ Group on 01303 226500. Ash­ford Bor­ough Coun­cil’s (ABC) plans for a new com­mu­nity toi­let scheme would see shop­keep­ers and restau­rant own­ers open up their loos to the shop­pers, res­i­dents and vis­i­tors.

Busi­nesses par­tic­i­pat­ing could re­ceive up to £1,000 per year if they pro­vide fa­cil­i­ties in busy ar­eas. The coun­cil would also pay £900 per year for fa­cil­i­ties which pro­vide sep­a­rate toilets and baby chang­ing ar­eas, £800 for sep­a­rate toilets and dis­abled loos, or £700 for male and fe­male toilets.

Par­tic­i­pat­ing busi­nesses would dis­play a sign in a win­dow to in­di­cate if the pub­lic can use the loos for free, and ex­tend the open­ing hours well be­yond 5pm each day. To view the pro­pos­als for toi­let fa­cil­i­ties visit www. ash­ford.gov.uk

Pic­ture: Gary Browne FM4327883

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