Friday, September 05, 2008

Stairlift could help council

This stairlift related article appeared on the Knutsford Guardian website.

A STAIRLIFT could be installed in an historic building in Knutsford to make it easier for the disabled to attend meetings.

Knutsford Town Council is considering investing in a lift so they can slide up the stairs to the first-floor council chamber where councillors currently meet twice a month.

Town mayor Jennifer Holbrook revealed the council’s plans after a former mayor, now a member of the public, claimed the council was breaking the law by continuing to meet at the 160-year-old Council Offices in Toft Road.

Barbara Austin said the town council needed to change its venue to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act.

She said it was impossible for anyone in a wheelchair to get upstairs and the staircase itself could be difficult for older residents.

“None of us are exactly Olympians at the moment,” she said. Councillor Holbrook said the council had originally planned to move into the Tourist Information Centre’s office downstairs, but that idea had to be scrapped when Macclesfield Borough Council shelved plans to move the information service to the nearby civic centre.

However, Miss Austin suggested the council could meet elsewhere, such as the Jubilee Hall in Stanley Road.

“I want to know what you’re likely to do,” she said during public question time.

About four years ago the town council switched its meetings to the Cranford Suite at Knutsford Civic Centre to comply with the new disability discrimination laws.

But councillors gave up on that venue because of poor lighting, noisy air conditioning units and trains rumbling by.

They then started meeting in the civic centre coffee bar.

But the noise of people queuing for the cinema eventually forced them to abandon that idea and they moved back into their original council chamber.

At a meeting, former town councillor Brenda Guite said the debates were still difficult to hear.

She suggested installing a speaker system in the chamber.

But Councillor Holbrook said there might be an easier solution.

“Should I ask all the councillors to speak up?” she said.