OPINION

Why the case of Rockwater’s lift is so important for disability rights

Posted On 25 Mar 2022 at 10:09 am

When Rockwater opened their new Roof Terrace in early May last year, the only access was via a flight of stairs, and the lift which featured in the approved plans had not been installed.

This is a breach of Building Regulations Part M Section 3, which comprehensively sets out access requirements in “Buildings other than Dwellings.”

BADGE and PossAbility People met with chief operations officer Lee Wilson on site to discuss our concerns.

The combined architectural design and structural engineering had created an impressive renovation of a seedy building that had literally had too many late nights and looked the worse for it.

Spacewords Brighton

According to local media, this was a £4 million build (£1 million of which was raised from local investors who may be concerned to know they’ve invested in a non compliant building).

And yet, despite all this expertise and investment, the lift never got off the ground (excuse the pun).

Fast forward three months after the roof terrace had opened, and the council noted the violation by attaching a condition to the retrospective planning decision, which stated “unless within six months of the date of this decision (Thursday 5 August 2021) the passenger lift, as detailed on the approved plans, has been implemented and made available for use, the operation of the property shall cease until such time as the passenger lift is implemented.”

The six month deadline arrived (Saturday 5 February 2022) but the lift didn’t, just a small hole dug in the ground two days earlier.

xmas collections

The impact of covid on the hospitality sector and building materials supply issues were given by way of mitigation, according to Westbourne ward councillor Chris Henry, who also informed us that he had therefore “cut them some slack”.

The lift was in the plans as a requirement, so presumably within the £4 million budget. The rest of the building pressed ahead, apparently not affected by the same supply issues.

Rockwater Group have recently announced their ambition to expand, with two more “villages” in the pipeline, further along the south coast – an £8.7 million investment offering “an elevated and community-driven hospitality experience”, according to Luke Davis.

Hopefully the lifts will be part of this “elevated” experience and disabled people in Sandbanks and Branksome Chine won’t have to wait a year to be able to enjoy it with their family and friends.

After all, the Equality Act 2010 states that treating someone with a protected characteristic – in this instance disabled people who can’t use stairs – less favourably than others, is direct discrimination.

The council tell us they have Rockwater’s assurances that the lift will be installed and in operation by the end of May. We hope that there will be no further procrastination.

We will continue to work alongside other disability stakeholder groups, and with the council, to improve awareness of our community’s needs within the protective legislations.

We are pleased to be in ongoing constructive discussions with Planning Committee councillors and officers, who have committed to explore how to strengthen existing processes to ensure future developments are designed and delivered well for access, as the law and just plain old common decency says they should.

Pippa Hodge is a member of BADGE (Brighton Access for Disabled Groups Everywhere).

  1. Nathan Adler Reply

    Utter joke of an organisation, and had no intention of putting in the lift if they could have got away with it, (and lets be frank Brighton Planning is just as culpable for letting this slip twice). Lets hope this is done by May but it clearly hi lights that this is not a very friendly accessible city at times and it needs to be better

  2. Katy Reply

    I could not agree more with Pippa Hodge. The disabled community has been fed promises for far too long. The planning committee on noting a violation of regulations after several months then decided to extend the timescale to implement a lift by a further six months, with the condition that if not the operation of the property shall cease.
    Guess what, the deadline arrived but no lift. Yet, the development continued.
    We then have the local councillor shrugging his shoulders and saying ‘cut them some slack’. You could not make this up.
    It appears that neither the owner, the planning committee, or the councillor cares much for disability access. The disabled community can rightly feel discriminated against again.
    Everybody appears to be looking after each other but nobody appears to be looking after those with access needs.
    It’s 2022, people with disabilities do not need to be cut any slack. They need to be given their rights and councils need to enforce them!

  3. Muriel Briault Reply

    Cut them some slack,from a councillor, it is a disgrace it was in the plan’s so should have been built at the same time, this councillor obviously has no idea what it is like to be disabled.

  4. Alison G Reply

    Although I understand the requirement to allow disabled people to be able to use a venue I am very surprised that they are expected to be allowed to use every corner of it to the extent that it puts huge financial pressure on an owner and may make it unviable. No other restaurant is expected to do this in town. I wonder if the planning should actually be reviewed as from a fire risk assessment perspective I am very surprised that disabled people should be expected to exit a building in a fire via a lift when from a safety both to them and other visitors in what could be a packed venue it would be far safer if they were on the ground floor. Expecting other people to carry them down the stairs or allowing people with impaired mobility that is so bad they need a lift to slowly get down the stairs could easily mean lives lost.

  5. Chris Reply

    Sorry Pippa – I have to agree with Alison’s point above. What do you do in a fire ? How could you deal with this ? You cannot block the stairs with a wheelchair or evac-chair with people getting out, possibly in a panic, and certainly having had a few drinks.

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