£100,000 fund to improve disability access in Welwyn Hatfield

PUBLISHED: 06:48 14 February 2019

Councillor Glyn Hayes in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: DANNY LOO

Councillor Glyn Hayes in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: DANNY LOO

©2018 Danny Loo Photography - all rights reserved

A fund of £100,000 is to be set up to improve disability access at small businesses around Welwyn Hatfield.

The idea for the fund was put forward by Cllr Glyn Hayes, who uses a wheelchair.

During a meeting of Welwyn Hatfield Council last Monday, Cllr Hayes told councillors the fund could “go a long way”.

“Many of the local shops and businesses are in buildings of yesteryear, with steps and heavy doors preventing access to many would-be users of the borough,” he said.

“But times change, and in a bid to bring about more equality and independence for the many disabled people this fund would go a long way to facilitating this.

“From personal experience, most of our shops – excluding the indoor shopping centres – are inaccessible.

“This not only prevents me from going into the shop but also makes me not want to.

“I want our shopping areas to champion disability access so we become the envy of other towns around us.”

Meanwhile Cllr Hayes also highlighted the council’s position as landlord to a lot of local buildings used as shops, pointing to the “grey area” of responsibility for disability access that already existed.

During the debate councillors highlighted grants that were already available to businesses through the Department for Work and Pensions.

Some objected to the idea, put forward as an amendment to the budget at such a late stage.

Cllr Stephen Bolton said that with a set of automatic doors costing up to £7,000, and a ramp costing up to £2,000, the total fund of £100,000 may not go very far.

“It’s not going to do the whole town centre, ” he said, suggesting there should be a limit on the amount each business could claim. “It will help certainly, but it won’t do everything.”

Ultimately executive member for resources Cllr Duncan Bell agreed to back the proposal, provided the criteria and the delivery were carefully developed.

He said the fund would have to be concentrated on small businesses as the larger retailers should already be doing this. He said it could be an addition to the business rate relief criteria.

He said he did not like “bouncing” into things – but that if this would be a one-off and if the criteria could be developed he would accept it

The proposal for the fund was backed unanimously.

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