‘Changing Places’ consultation response deferral by Mid and East Antrim Council

Mid and East Antrim councillors have deferred support for the local authority’s response to a public consultation on the introduction of Changing Places in certain buildings.

Tuesday, 21st September 2021, 6:53 pm
The toilet block at Larne Town Park

Councillors are concerned that a new requirement may have cost implications for businesses.

The purpose of the proposed policy change is to make the provision of Changing Places toilets a minimum requirement in certain larger new buildings.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy said at the consultation launch: “The approach we are outlining would introduce a requirement for Changing Places toilets to be fitted in certain buildings meeting specified critera.”

The local authority has already given a commitment to providing Changing Places for disabled people as funding becomes available.

New Changing Places toilets opened in Carnfunnock Country Park outside Larne and at the People’s Park in Ballymena and will be included in a new toilet block at Larne Town Park.

Changing Places have also been earmarked for the new Ballymena leisure centre and at Larne Leisure Centre and The Amphitheatre in Carrickfergus,

Changing Places include changing benches, hoists and space for two carers. The equipment costs approximately £15,000. There are 42 in Northern Ireland.

Speaking at a meeting of the council’s Borough Growth Committee on Monday evening, Larne Lough Alliance Councillor Danny Donnelly said: “The growth of Changing Places provision is something I am very keen to see. This is a very important consultation from the Department of Finance.

“It is a very good response. I am glad to see council being so supportive of Changing Places. It makes our services fully accessible. This is great to see.”

The Mae Murray Foundation has stated previously: “As an organisation, we are committed to ensuring dignified toileting for all at all of our events and we choose destinations based on these facilities. We would be delighted to be able to use Carnfunnock as a base more often for our all-ability activities, thereby increasing participation opportunities for those most in need.”

Council officer Martin McCook suggested that a change in legislation may result in a “concentration” of Changing Places toilets in the greater Belfast area due to the sie of buildings in which they would be located.

He noted that this may not provide for people who need them elsewhere before recommending a “better geographical spread”.

He indicated that new regulations could see an additional 12 Changing Places toilets in Northern Ireland  initially through a phased introduction, firstly in new buildings.

Coast Road Alliance councillor Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna  commented: “It is an excellent initiative. I am glad we as a council have been very pro-active. It makes good business sense as well.”

Coast Road DUP Cllr Andrew Clarke said: “I am quite concerned about the whole approach of our response to the review. I am concerned that we are going for a much more radical approach tha suggested in the review and the impact it will have on our small businesses, another burden on those trying to revitalise our high street.”

A public consultation document has indicated that regulations do not apply retrospectively for existing buildings.

Mr McCook indicated that Changing Places toilets may be a requirement in town centres, for example, or in a business hub.

Cllr Clarke continued: “I can’t support the report as it stands. It is not clear to me that there is sufficient safeguards for small businesses.”

Bannside TUV Cllr Timothy Gaston added: “It needs to be clear cut what we are asking people to do.”

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

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Click here to read: Over 500 people savour summer fun at Carnfunnock thanks to Mae Murray Foundation

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