Wednesday, September 24, 2008

UK community votes against improving disability access for church

From The Press in North Yorkshire in the UK:

Hopes that a ramp used by wheelchair-bound worshippers to enter an historic city church would undergo vital renovation work have been dashed by planning chiefs.

Leaders at St Olave’s Church, Marygate, York, applied to the City of York Council in July for planning permission to improve the entrance to the building – but have had their application turned down by the council who said it did not want to spoil the overall “character and appearance” of the area.

The planning application, put in by church warden Suzanne Bews on behalf of the church, said the entrance to the church was “very steep and narrow” and needed repair work to make it safer for people.

The parochial church council’s proposal intended to modify the north entrance from Marygate, to allow level access for wheelchairs into the church.

The church sought planning permission to remove the steps between the church floor level and the top of the sloped path, so as to provide an opportunity to improve the finish of the sloped path, reducing the width of the cobble strips and widening the flagstone.

In a statement to City of York Council, Ms Bews said: “In recent years there has been a rise in the number of wheelchair users worshipping in, and visiting, the church.

“A number of near misses have occurred in which a wheelchair user has come out of the church down the small, portable ramp to the sloped landing area and, unable to stop or turn quickly enough, almost overshot and tumbled down the steep steps.

“The parochial church council is extremely anxious that this could so easily happen.”

But planning chiefs at the council have turned down the application to help disabled people have safer access to the church.

In a statement outlining the decision, a spokesperson for the planning board said: “It is considered that the scheme results in a loss to the character and appearance of the conservation area and an adverse change to the setting of the listed building.

“The works to improve accessibility to the church would result in the loss of the historic approach to the grade-one listed building that would be detrimental to its historic, visual and architectural interest and would weaken the relationship of the church with the wider conservation area.”