Building a new restaurant in place of the public toilet amenity has always been seen as controversial and unpopular when there are so many empty premises in town.
One of the main reasons given by the Labour run council, to develop a new building themselves in Harold Place, was they could control the design. Labour councillors argued that not putting the development out to private tender would allow the council to build something of merit.
Building regulations state that best practice, and the preferred way to provide disabled access, is a passenger lift, particularly for new developments. Second best would be a platform lift which is not as comfortable or convenient but it is the cheaper option the council have chosen.
Why would the council deviate from best practice when they are solely responsible for the design and construction of this new building?
Cabinet papers from December 2019 state: “The option for the Council to redevelop the site itself incurs potentially more costs . . . but would retain more control in terms of what is built than if disposed of by long lease”. ‘More control’ obviously doesn’t mean providing the best access for all its citizens.
Architects acting for the council now state not having a proper lift, “avoids an unsightly lift over-run that would compromise the roof form and impact the setting of the nearby conservation area.”
It is truly incredible to see council agents use technical excuses to get around best practice and leave disabled users feeling second best.
By the time you read this the Council would have set their budget for 22/23 and council tax bills will rise. The Labour led council are having to use reserves to balance the books and future years look even bleaker. For the past five years the Labour council have been warned about making the necessary savings to stay solvent but they have refused to do so.
There are choices. Only last week Labour councillors voted to spend £67,000 per year more than the best tender and employ council building cleaners themselves. The Conservatives and the Green Party voted against this as there is no justification to spend the extra money.
Research revealed Labour are subsiding electric vehicle (EV) charging points in town by roughly a £140,000 a year by giving out free electricity. Figures show each of their 23 EV charging point could generate gross revenue of up to £500 per month.
Last year Labour argued they wouldn’t give parking concessions to EV car owners because they shouldn’t be subsidising people who were wealthy enough to own an electric car. This is hypocrisy of the first order and shows that poor choices are being made time and time again.