Council’s u-turn over pool disability provision

WORTHING Council has made a dramatic u-turn on plans to provide facilities for the severely disabled at the town’s new swimming pool.

Despite telling the Herald last week that equipment for the severely disabled had “bitten the dust” when it came down to the budget, the council has now said it could retrospectively meet the requirements after the building has been finished.

Worthing Borough Council said work could be undertaken after the building has been finished, by doubling up the first aid room or one of the group changing rooms, or putting the needed equipment in the current disabled changing room.

The u-turn comes after Worthing Scope and the Worthing Access and Mobility Group told the Herald last week they were not happy with the provision of disabled facilities.

Council leader Paul Yallop said: “The last we were told was that there was not any grants available back in 2010.

“If there is money available now, then we will be happy to take advantage of it. Our external funding manager is very good at going out and finding pots of money.”

The concern was that although the pool would be DDA compliant, there would be no specific changing areas or hoists for severely disabled people, and fixed tables in the café area would prevent wheelchair users from using them. The council said it was not mandatory to provide facilities for the severely disabled and plans had “bitten the dust” when it had struggled to get the scheme down from £22m to £17.9m.

But after our story last week, the council’s leisure manager Duncan Anderson sent an email to the disabled groups.

In it, he said: “I would very much like to see a changing places facility at the new pool and this will most likely have to be fitted retrospectively.

“We could find space either by doubling up the first aid room or one of the group changing rooms as a changing places room or if it was big enough, putting the required equipment in the current disabled changing area. The first aid room lends itself to the best location in the building for access and size of room. It would not be the first time in a leisure complex that a room is used for multi uses.”

Councillor Norah Fisher of the Worthing Access and Mobility Group said although the news is better than nothing, it’s still not enough. Councillor Fisher said: “Our argument is why build something and then knock it down to do the work retrospectively. Why can’t they just wait and put these things in place? It’s just really silly doing all this work later because it could have been done before, which is what we really can’t understand.

“We’re still not happy with being accused of bringing this up last minute because we have voiced our concerns two years ago.”

Mr Yallop was due to meet with the disabled groups last week (March 21).