Disability Commissioner ?
In late February, the trustees of SAAP had the pleasure of meeting Jeremy Balfour MSP who is campaigning for a Commissioner for Disability, to represent the 22% of people in Scotland who live with a disability. The concept has been approved by the Scottish Parliament, but an Act is required before a Commissioner is appointed.
Jeremy, who is visiting on a Cross Party basis, is also investigating what most interests Access Panels currently. We discussed the following:
· Incorrect Accessible Signage at Forth Valley College – Although we had extensive correspondence with the Principal for over a year, the signs are still in place. Jeremy has a meeting planned with the Principal to discuss signage.
· Active Travel – We questioned why the Scottish Government in their latest Energy Strategy has allocated £500M for future Active Travel Projects, but have deferred the planned release of £10M for a number of Changing Places Toilets in Scotland. - Lack of or poor consultations which have taken place with the Council and ScotRail on the station refurbishment and Plaza, where they have removed all taxis and drop-offs.
- The other projects: the cycle route to the university from the station and from the town centre to the college, where detailed drawings were only released to us immediately before work began, and our many concerns remain unanswered; The City Centre South Project is going the same way and being implemented without any correct participative consultation with the many vulnerable groups who will be affected.
Jeremy said he would write to both the Council and ScotRail.
· Transport Scotland Act & Pavement Parking – Although the Act dates back to 2019, it has not been approved yet. Jeremy said that the Act is due to be released this year. It will be interesting to see how the council will enforce it.
· Dropped Kerb Problem – Locally, as well as elsewhere, many kerbs are incorrectly installed with a lip towards the road. These should be 0-6mm in height but some are over 20mm in height, which means that manual wheelchair users must reverse backwards to overcome the height. This is of course extremely dangerous for the wheelchair user from traffic on adjacent streets and roads. Jeremy is aware of the issues and will highlight it.
· Planning and the Equality Act 2010 – We discussed the lack of enforcement of the Act, particularly with the many student accommodation projects which are happening right in the middle of the city. New Applications are happening very regularly and it is changing the character and types of small businesses in Stirling. The most significant factor is that many of the Applications don’t have accessible accommodation. The Equality Act is there to: ‘Provide the same services in the same way to everyone equally’. Yet, many Applications have been approved without or with only a token number of accessible bedrooms. The law requires compliance, and those Applications should not be passed without compliance. Jeremy will take this up with Stirling Council.
· Changing Places Toilets (CPT) – We highlighted the need for a CPT in the City Centre, and how our request for one has been dragging on for years now. We have suggested in the past that the Bus Station or Railway Station would be a good location, but these locations have been rejected as the owners claim that there is no room for one. Somewhere on Murray Place would be ideal, and it is really up to the council to find a location. CPT’s are typically £90+K which is probably why nobody wishes to build a new one and we are informed that those who need one are directed to The Peak or Bellfield Centre, but this is not a feasible solution for anyone requiring a CPT, nor is it a “reasonable adjustment”. Jeremy will ask the council what they intend, and mentioned the positive, economic benefits of having a CPT, as people will go to and patronise locations which have a CPT.
Overall, it was a very satisfactory discussion, with Jeremy promising to take action on a number of issues and feedback responses to us.