Planners block bid to improve disabled access
A HOSPITAL has been refused permission to improve disabled access because planners say the existing unsafe steps have too much historical value.
Now Burrswood Christian Hospital in Groombridge has asked the Government to step in to resolve the wrangle.
Some of the patients' ramps at the hospital, on the Kent and East Sussex border, have been deemed dangerous because they are too steep.
They do not comply with modern health and safety regulations but Tunbridge Wells Borough Council ruled the ramps could not be replaced because the old steps – which don't go anywhere – could not be moved.
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Burrswood's designers had suggested moving the old steps brick by brick just ten metres from their current spot. Speldhurst Parish Council did not object to the idea.
The officers acknowledged Burrswood's intention was to provide better disability access but said the importance of the listed steps outweighed that.
Hospital spokeswoman, Sophie Minoprio, said: "We are hoping to move a set of steps on the terrace to enable the creation of a Disability Discrimination Act-compliant ramp for wheelchair access.
"This will also enable the steps to be used as they were originally intended.
"Not getting the planning will mean a less efficient access and a more convoluted layout. Obviously, we are hopeful the appeal will be upheld."
The planning officer's decision report said: "This work gave the opportunity to resite the existing listed steps so that, instead of going nowhere because of previous development of the orangery, they can be used to fulfil their original function of providing alternative stepped access to the terrace."
However, the officers concluded: "Even though the steps no longer serve any practical purpose, they do retain an historic relevance in that they pertain to a previous period where they provided access to the terrace."
Letters in support of or against the appeal must be submitted before June 27 ahead of a decision later this year.