Cllr Sam Nicholson.
Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s planning committee has backed calls for the introduction of a Stormont financed changing places fund to be introduced in Northern Ireland.
The call was made by members of the committee during a meeting on Wednesday, October 6 at which Council’s response to a consultation on the proposed amendments to building regulations concerning the provision of changing places toilets was discussed.
Changing place facilities are designed so that they are completely accessible and provide sufficient space and equipment for people who are not able to use the toilet independently.
While Council welcomes the proposals to include criteria for these toilets, its response to the consultation expresses some concern around anomalies and ambiguities in the proposed guidance, as well as concerns regarding the list of targeted buildings.
In one particular example, Council notes that a small rural graveyard that proposes to build a single toilet for visitors would, under these proposals, be required to construct a changing places facility which in many cases would appear to be excessive or disproportionate to the scenario and may limit the likelihood of any toileting facility being offered.
The committee’s Chair, Councillor Peter Lavery, said he agreed with officers’ assessment that there were some “unusual aspects” to this legislation and expressed his support for the consultation response.
Cllr Lavery also referenced one of Council’s strongest advocates for changing places facilities, Councillor Julie Flaherty and urged the committee to take a progressive approach to this issue.
“If Councillor Flaherty was here she would be speaking strongly on this issue, urging us to take a progressive approach in regards to changing places toilet provision and it is good to see this coming forward,” he said.
“There does appear to be some unusual aspects to this legislation and I do think it would be good to see the Executive’s Changing Places fund introduced alongside this legislation.
“This would help to encourage a number of businesses to get on board and provide some financial assistance towards these upgrades.”
Ulster Unionist Party councillor Sam Nicholson said he was in agreement with Councillor Lavery’s comments and noted that such legislation has been “a long time coming”.
“I put a changing places toilet in on a project I was working on in 2005, this has been a long time coming but we need clarification on the regulations.
“As soon as we put it in black and white in the technical book that is where it is. I totally agree with the questions being asked as there are a lot of anomalies where conflict could be created down the line.
“Nevertheless, I do welcome this progress and second the call for the Finance Minister, Conor Murphy MLA, to release money for a Changing Places Fund.
“It was agreed to in the New Decade New Approach deal so there should be no excuse. This money should be out and available to allow these people to make these adoptions and provide these facilities.
“We as a committee should provide a resounding voice and back Cllr Flaherty and call for the Changing Places fund to be released immediately by the finance minister.”
Council’s Chair, Alderman Glenn Barr said he would echo the sentiments made by his committee colleagues and noted the excellent changing places facilities on offer at the South Lake Leisure Centre.
“I have recently had the pleasure of touring the South Lake Leisure Centre,” he said.
“The amount of changing places facilities on offer in there makes every wee bit of difference for those with disabilities and I am happy to support the comments.”
A proposal to approve the draft response to the consultation was then put forward by Councillor Sam Nicholson and seconded by Alderman Glenn Barr.