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Accessibility concerns raised over Nairn's new Citizens’ Advice Bureau

By Donald Wilson

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Ian Booth outside the CAB building. Picture: Callum Mackay..
Ian Booth outside the CAB building. Picture: Callum Mackay..

A RANGE of problems have been raised by Nairn Access Panel about accessibility to the newly opened CAB office in the town centre.

The development was part of a £3.2 million project which includes 12 new flats for council tenants.

But Ian Booth, the chairman of the Access Panel, which champions rights of disabled people with the aim of making Nairn as accessible as possible, said there has been a significant opportunity missed with regard to improving access to and surrounding the new building.

“The building, which does not include a lift access to upper floors, precludes many with disabilities from getting a tenancy or being able to visit friends in the complex.

“We also are concerned about the undulating access to the main entrance which has a potentially inaccessible gradient from both the approach from King Street and from Falconers Lane making access with wheelchairs and other mobility aids extremely difficult and potential dangerous, as any loss of balance will tend to force one down the slope and onto the pavement and on to the A96.

“No safety barriers or rails have been provided.”

Mr Booth continued: “The planners have appeared to have focused on access to the building being from the Falconer’s Lane direction. There has been no regard for anyone approaching from further down King Street or directly from the library car park, the entrance of which has non-compliable dropped kerbs which force wheelchairs etc on to the A96. Similarly those approaching from Leopold Street must still contend with obstacle course of the redundant filling station access etc.”

Other problems raised include the lack of accessible pavements through both the library and central car parks for people competing with traffic and the position of the disabled spaces in the library car park appear “ad hoc and fragmented”, says Mr Booth. TURN TO PAGE 5

Mr Booth said despite the efforts of the panel to have a constructive dialogue with the relevant parties during the design phases this did not happen.

“However we will happily work with the council and CAB to try and resolve some of these issues.

“What is frustrating is that it should not be up to a group of volunteers to tell the planners/architects what is necessary to enable the disabled to fully participate in the community. A little bit of joined up thinking would go a long way.”

A Highland council spokesman said: “The needs of pedestrians in general, and the young, sensory impaired, less ambulant, walking aid or wheelchair users in particular, were a key consideration when designing the public space around the site, which has compliant levels throughout to deal with level changes, comprehensive lighting, and a seamless surface.

“Significant effort has been made to provide a well-lit, welcoming, level, traffic free route between the A96 and the High Street; a wider, level pavement alongside the A96, removing obstacles such as the laybys and a seamless surface surrounding the new building to improve accessibility.

“Building Standards do not require a lift for buildings of this height. In any case we would rather build wheelchair/accessible properties on ground level to remove any possibility of a tenant being unable to get home/leave home in the event of a lift breakdown. The ground floors of all Highland Council newbuilds exceed part M of Building Standards and are designed to be liveable for most mobility issues, with around 20 per cent of new stock being fully wheelchair liveable on the ground floor.

“The CAB’s door currently uses a doorbell system. The door and entranceway themselves are fully compliant. CAB advise they are already actively seeking funding to upgrade the door to an automatic opener.”

“The solution would be to position all disabled parking spaces together in a safe position alongside the Courthouse House wall, where the existing ones are currently positioned.

“The tactile paving at the pedestrian access between the Library and the Central carpark is incorrectly positioned, and will lead to sight impaired people being injured. It directs them into the wall! We have been advised that this will be monitored! Will someone have to be injured before this is corrected?”

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