PLANS to replace and widen steps on a Hampshire university campus have been thrown out because they would discriminate against wheelchair users.
Members of Southampton City Council’s planning and rights of way panel rejected the plans, submitted by the University of Southampton to widen a flight of existing steps which links the western part of Highfield Campus to Lover’s Walk and the wider Common.
The university proposed to widen the 1.2 metre-width steps to 3.2 metres.
But the panel refused the application after members raised concerns that the new steps would discriminate against disabled users.
Speaking at last week’s meeting, wheelchair user Ian Loynes said access should be improved for all and there was a possible alternative for the site by providing a ramp.
Mr Loynes, who is CEO of Spectrum Centre for Independent Living, an organisation which supports and fights for the rights of disabled people, added: “It seems to me that we should turn down this proposal because of the lack of access for disabled people.”
Simon Hill, a local resident, told the panel that the plans went against the council’s policies in its Core Strategy which states the council will “improve accessibility throughout the city” by ensuring developments are “accessible to all users” including senior citizens and disabled people.
Graham Linecar, secretary for Southampton Commons and Parks Protection Society, voiced his concerns about the total width of the proposed replacement steps.
He added: “Paths on the common should not be treated by the university as a convenient and cheap way to enable students to get between campuses and to and from student residential accommodation.”
Adam Tewkesbury, the university’s transport manager, said the existing steps have become “undermined” by rats, and were unstable.
He added: “What we are seeking to do is improve an existing piece of infrastructure that has reached the end of its operational life, and also cater for the existing levels of demand on that route – especially at peak times.”
Speaking in support of the plans, Furzedown Road resident Sue Ingham, said disabled people can access the university campus via Oakhurst Road, Hawthorn Road and Chamberlain Road.
“People who need wheelchair access have access to the Common via the road, just not via the steps,” she said. “The time taken from the university is more or less the same.”
Cllr Stephen Barnes-Andrews said: “The opportunity brought about by replacing these steps is such a chance to get that sorted out. Otherwise, we are discriminating against young students who have probably, in many cases, overcome quite personal challenges to get to this prestigious university with their disablement.”
We couldn’t agree more! (WDSA UK)
Source: Daily Echo News.
Date reported: 10/2/17.