Mon, 16 Jul 2018
A councillor has urged colleagues to try to block a bid by the Town and Manor of Hungerford to make repairs to the Town Hall – unless they improve disabled access.
Former mayor Martin Crane accused the charity of “hiding behind the fact it is a listed building” in the past and said: “That’s nonsense – and now is the time to make our premier building properly accessible for all.”
He has urged colleagues on Hungerford Town Council’s environment and planning committee to “strongly object” to granting planning permission for the repair proposals.
However, the Town and Manor of Hungerford insists the Town Hall is “fully accessible to everyone”.
In an email to the town council and district councillors James Podger and Paul Hewer (both Con, Hungerford), Mr Crane said: “I note that the Town and Manor are at last planning to install a smooth surface to the front entrance to the Town Hall.
“However, very disturbingly, there is no mention of also ensuring that they address the ongoing issue of having suitable access for the disabled.
“In these circumstances, I recommend that we strongly object to these plans unless they incorporate disabled access.”
Mr Crane told the Newbury Weekly News: “While it might be the case that having what the Town and Manor believe is a disabled access at the rear of the building, this is clearly not sufficient for the majority of those seeking access.
“I’ve studied the front carefully over the years and could easily design a system that would allow wheelchairs.”
His council colleague, Mark Cusack, responded that “any building which is open to the public – other than a private dwelling – is required to comply with the law”.
He added: “The current level access to the town hall is via a fire exit.
The Town and Manor of Hungerford had not responded as this newspaper went to press.
However, environment and planning committee chariwoman Carolann Farell said: "I personally think it would be a shame to change the front of the historic Town Hall building.
“I have always been of the understanding that disabled access is indeed available via the car park at the rear, level ground, with the lift to the first floor on level internal flooring.”
She stressed she was speaking merely in a personal capacity and that the issue is likely to be formally discussed at the next environment and planning committee meeting on August 6.
Meanwhile, the planning application for the repairs can be viewed and commented on by visiting the planning section of West Berkshire Council’s website and inputting the reference number 18/01154/LBC2.