Why Peterborough Telegraph’s disability campaign is needed

The Peterborough Telegraph has this week launched a new campaign to improve city centre access for people with disabilities.

By Joel Lamy
Friday, 11th June 2021, 4:57 am
Updated Friday, 11th June 2021, 6:31 am

Our five-point plan has been backed by campaigners and disabled people across Peterborough many of whom find it hard to venture into the city due to a number of existing barriers.

The result is increasing isolation with many people either choosing to stay at home or do their shopping in other cities.

The changes being called on by the PT are for:

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The launch of the Peterborough Unlimited campaign. From left: Hayley, Matthew and Rebecca Stannard; Samanatha Stokes; Graham Barnes; Julie Howell; Julie Fernandez and Sarah Pilbean

. Building of a fully accessible toilet block in the city centre

. The creation of a disability officer post at the council

. More Blue Badge parking spaces

. Keeping St Peter’s Arcade permanently open

. Improved access for disabled people into Queensgate.

In the following weeks we will be going into further detail on all of these issues, but our recent reporting has highlighted significant barriers for people with disabilities.

The PT has featured remarks from a new disability forum on the closure of St Peter’s Arcade (which has since re-opened) and the lack of fully accessible toilets.

The closure of the arcade due to Covid was said to be causing real difficulty for people with limited mobility, both due to the extra distance required to access Bridge Street from disabled parking spots and ‘obstacles’ such as hoardings which even caused a child to fall off their mother’s wheelchair.

The PCVS forum also said that many people were shunning Queensgate due to a lack of fully accessible toilets, with some instead going to Milton Keynes or Cambridge to do their shopping.

The lack of suitable toilets was later confirmed by PT readers commenting on the original article.

Queensgate has not commented on the issue so far.

Concerns have also been raised about access into the shopping centre.

In 2017, centre director Mark Broadhead, and the city council, promised quick progress on improving access from the station.

The pledge came after Mr Broadhead and senior figures from the local authority tried the different routes from the station to the shopping centre in a wheelchair to better understand how difficult the journey is for people who are disabled.

The difficulties identified during the activity prompted council cabinet member Cllr Peter Hiller to remark: “People are coming into the city and can’t access the main shopping centre.

“I will certainly be lobbying for changes. Having had it demonstrated to me I had not realised the impediment for disabled, blind and partially sighted people.”

Mr Broadhead added at the time: “There’s a great dialogue between the owners and the council and it’s something that will come on the agenda shortly.”

However, since then people with disabilities have lamented a lack of progress, with Queensgate refusing to comment when asked if any action has been taken.

And in May this year, we revealed that around £17,000 had been paid to make Peterborough City Council’s new Sand Martin House offices at Fletton Quays more accessible for staff with disabilities after a number of flaws were revealed.

An access audit paid for by the authority recommended 89 remedial actions, including 10 “high risk” issues which needed to be addressed “as a matter of priority”.

These included a lack of public transport to the building, kitchens which were “not accessible” due to the height of the worktops and an emergency exit which could not be fully opened.

Other issues raised included:

. Wheelchair users being unable to open doors due to release buttons being too high and blocked by a bin/fire extinguisher

. Touchscreens to book meeting rooms being too high for wheelchair users and in a style which “cannot be used by blind and partially sighted people”

. No induction loops in meeting or training rooms.