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.
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.
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).
LIKE WHAT WE DO? HELP US TO DO MORE OF IT BY DONATING HERE.