Mon, 13 Aug 2018
A FORMER Hungerford wine merchant who uses a wheelchair has offered constructive criticism over disabled access at the town hall.
Former town mayor Martin Crane has campaigned for disabled access to the front of the building for years.
So when the Town and Manor of Hungerford announced renovation proposals, he urged trustees to use the opportunity to provide it.
The charity, which owns and maintains the building, has said a lift at the rear of the Town Hall already ensures access for all.
But Mr Crane, who stressed he was speaking in a personal capacity and not as a town council spokesman, said it was hard to access in a wheelchair, the approach road was too narrow to accommodate one without having to go into the road and the doors were often locked.
He has described it as “hard to find and even harder to access”.
Now multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferer Nick Davies has offered “a view from a badly disabled guy in a wheelchair who used to live in Church Street and had a shop where the Hungerford Bookshop is now”.
He added: “My father was president of the Newbury Society, so I have a lot of interest in older buildings.
“I want to strike a realistic and practical solution between maintaining the integrity of old buildings whilst also making them accessible for disabled people.”
Mr Davies said: “Accessing the back door in a car is okay, but if you’re on your own, how do you get round there?
“You don’t. And if you do manage it, how do you attract anyone’s attention to get in?
“I know people who say they’ve tried to get into an event via the back door and no one knew they were there.
“And the front should be accessible to everyone.”
He went on to say he considered Mr Crane’s suggestion of creating a continental-style piazza, or courtyard, too ambitious, branding the idea “overkill”.
Mr Davies also said he did not want to see the structure of the historic building altered.
He suggested a compromise solution could involve installing a ‘platform lift’ at the front, which would maintain the integrity of the original structure, and added: “The Town and Manor is being a little shortsighted on this issue in my opinion.
“This solution would cost money, but there lots of disability-focused charities that could be approached.
“There’s Disability Rights UK and the DFG (Disabled Facilities Grants), just for example.”
Meanwhile, Mr Crane has said he will raise the issue at a future meeting of Hungerford Town Council’s tourism and economy committee.
As previously reported, the chief executive of the Town and Manor, Jed Ramsay, has issued the following statement setting out the charity’s official stance: “The Town Hall is fully accessible to everyone – we have a flat entrance at the rear of the building and a lift that provides access to the top floor.
“We have recently purchased a good quality set of ramps for use on the internal steps – so we now can offer full access throughout the building.
“We acknowledge that the front entrance of the building has limited access, however the alternative entrances provide full access and we are very happy to facilitate the needs of users of the building wherever we can.”