The government has accepted just three of 23 recommendations made by a committee of MPs that were aimed at improving disabled people’s access to the built environment.The women and equalities committee concluded in its report last April that disabled people were too often finding their lives “needlessly restricted by features of the built environment”.It had heard evidence from disabled witnesses of a catalogue of barriers, including the shortage of accessible homes; public and commercial buildings without step-free access or with poor signage; and inaccessible workplaces.The Building for Equality report said the burden of ensuring an accessible environment “falls too heavily at present on individual disabled people” and that the government should “act to more visibly lead the charge in improving access and inclusion in the built environment”.It also called for “more ambition” in the standards of accessibility the government sets for new homes and said that “much more” could be done to “make the public realm and public buildings more accessible”.But the government’s response, from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), has dismissed nearly all the report’s recommendations for improving the accessibility of new homes, and access to public buildings and public spaces.Among the recommendations the government has rejected are: to ensure that all new public buildings meet strict inclusive design and access standards; to consider granting VAT exemptions for building work that improves access; and to force public bodies to publish access information about their buildings.The government also rejected the suggestion that planning permission for a development should only be given by a local authority if there was evidence that it made “sufficient provision for accessibility and inclusion”; and that the government should put pressure on councils that do not do enough to improve the supply of accessible housing in their local plans.It also dismissed a recommendation to remove the controversial requirement that local authorities must prove there is an immediate need for accessible housing if they want to apply optional access standards to new housing developments.And it rejected the latest attempt to persuade it to use licensing laws to ensure basic levels of access to licensed premises such as pubs and restaurants.Another recommendation rejected was to require local authorities to halt all controversial shared space street developments.MHCLG agreed just three recommendations.It says it will issue new planning guidance, which has drawn on “stakeholder engagement”, particularly with “disabled people and the groups that represent them”.It has also agreed to look again at building regulations on disability access; and to fund and support training and development activities by the built environment industry.Ellen Clifford, campaigns and policy manager for Inclusion London, which gave evidence to the committee’s inquiry, said the government’s response was “overwhelmingly disappointing”.She said: “The intention of the committee’s inquiry was to find solutions to urgent situations such as the lack of accessible housing supply or barriers to disabled people’s participation in the community, based on a social model approach to removing the burden of enforcement away from individual disabled people.“The government’s response shows an unwillingness to hold local authorities, developers and licensees to account on accessibility, despite all evidence that without this there will be no improvement and disabled people’s exclusion will continue.”One leading disabled access consultant, Tracey Proudlock, of Proudlock Associates, said she was “shocked and disappointed” that the government had accepted only three of the committee’s recommendations.She also criticised the government’s references to inclusive design being “best practice” rather than a statutory requirement, and to the need to have “consultation with” disabled people rather than “having disabled people involved at the heart of the processes that ultimately create inclusive design”.She said: “We are currently working on a development based on the principles of co-production – with local disabled people as part of the design team – and we know from our experience how important a step this is to take on the road to equality. “The government should be far more on-board with this.“Indeed, more should be done to improve inclusive design at every opportunity, both in regulations and in legislation and licensing. “Laws prohibiting development without improvement are currently full of gaps and at best unclear, especially where smaller commercial buildings are concerned.“What can’t be achieved by licensing must be met another way and it should be up to the government to find that means, not to turn down suggestions.”She added: “It is a continuing failure that so many people still do not have adequate access to buildings, in particular homes, work places and to heritage buildings. “In particular, we do not feel that housing standards should require research into local need before being applied, as good inclusive design enshrined in the right national standards should meet everyone’s needs and desires.”Sue Bott, deputy chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “The government response is very disappointing.”She said there was “little to cheer about”, except the government’s decision [although this was not in response to a recommendation of the committee] to commence long-awaited measures in the Equality Act 2010 that will impose a duty on landlords to allow reasonable access improvements to be made to the common parts of blocks of flats, such as entrances and stairs (see separate story). She added: “There’s much ‘we are committed’, ‘we share the committee’s view’, etc, but very little tangible action. “It seems that access to the built environment is anyone and everyone’s responsibility except the government’s.”The women and equalities committee said it was too early to comment on the government’s response.Asked why the government had rejected so many recommendations, an MHCLG spokesman agreed that the government had accepted just three of the report’s recommendations.But he said: “We fully recognise the importance of accessibility and inclusion when making decisions relating to the built environment.“We expect councils to consider this when making planning decisions, and we are taking action on a number of areas identified by the committee.”Picture: Zara Todd giving evidence on behalf of Inclusion London during the committee’s inquiry
WHEN Sydney Roosters come to town next month it will be a repeat of the first ever World Club Challenge match.Saints headed out on tour to Australia in 1976 to take on the Eastern Suburbs – who later became Saints opponents in this year’s World Club Series.The Saints of 1975-76 were dubbed ‘Dad’s Army’ because of a large portion of the squad was over 30-years-old, writes Alex Service.Experience is everything, however, and the team ended the campaign as Challenge Cup winners in the searing heat of Wembley Stadium and later beat First Division Champions Salford in the Premiership final.Captain Kel Coslett and the lads were really buzzing after their achievements and looked forward to a unique three-week tour Down Under to play a match against Queensland at Lang Park, Eastern Suburbs at the Sydney Cricket ground and finish off over in Auckland.Former Saints’ full-back Geoff Pimblett was, quite naturally delighted at the prospect of going to Australia and New Zealand.He says: “It was a fantastic experience for the lads, but it would have been better if we had say, just a week’s rest to recover from our own domestic matches and then jetted off Down Under.“But we had six weeks’ delay before the trip and we’d lost a bit of momentum by then – a great pity.”The party flew from Heathrow on June 17 to Brisbane with stops at Amsterdam, Vienna, Bahrain and Singapore. The first match was on June 22 at Lang Park, against a Queensland side which included some familiar names such as Greg Veivers, Ross Strudwick and John Lang.Despite holding a nine-point lead at one stage, Saints were a tired team when the Maroons clinched a 21-15 victory in the last few minutes.So on to Sydney and the unofficial World Club Championship match against Eastern Suburbs on June 29, coached by the famous Jack Gibson.Despite some early flurries, the Saints failed to make a real impression on the game and Easts, with the likes of Captain Artie Beetson earning the $5,000 dollar Man-of-the-Match award, were far too good on the night and won 25-2.The crowd numbered 26,856, including a large number of ex-pats, cheering on the visitors.“We had a few chances just before half-time, but we couldn’t take them,” recalls Geoff, “which was a great shame and they dominated after half-time.“We stayed at Bondi Junction and you remember daft things like ordering prawn cocktail for breakfast. It was all-inclusive and you could eat what you wanted, but we hadn’t seen things like that before.”Then it was on to Auckland and the slithering mud of Carlaw Park, before returning home on July 7.“We cut them [Auckland] up time and time again but couldn’t finish them off”, adds Geoff. “We ended up losing 20-13, but we’d had enough by then. If only we could have toured earlier – at our peak. Mind you, what memories, When you can sit in Bradman’s seat at the Sydney Cricket Ground – that’s what it is all about!”Saints will face Sydney Roosters at Langtree Park on Friday February 19 (8pm) as part of the prestigious World Club Series – and tickets are now on sale.They are priced at:Hattons Solicitors West Terrace, East Terrace and Family Stands:Adult – £22.50OAP and Young Adult – £15.50Junior – £10Solarking South and Totally Wicked North Stands:Gold: Adult – £30, OAP and Young Adult – £22.50, Junior – £12Silver: Adult – £28, OAP and Young Adult – £20.50, Junior – £12Bronze: Adult – £25, OAP and Young Adult – £18.50, Junior – £10Tickets can be bought by popping into the Ticket Office at Langtree Park, by calling 01744 455 052 or online here.A package for all three games (Leeds v North Queensland, Wigan v Brisbane) costs £60 and can be purchased by visiting www.rugbyleaguetickets.co.uk or calling the Rugby League Ticket Hotline on 0844 856 1113.
“It was always going to be a tough game, we knew that. To come away with the win is very pleasing.I thought there were a lot of good performances across the park from our boys.Obviously, we started well and I thought we were unlucky to go in at 12-all at half-time.Wigan kept coming back at us. In the second half it was a great defensive effort, we really ramped it up.I thought we showed enough in attack and, in defence we were really strong. To only concede a barge over and an intercept, against a very good Wigan side was really pleasing.”In the end, we came away with a good win. I thought Lachlan Coote was a very calming influence and he reads the game so well. To have Big Al back aswell was fantastic to see.I thought we all worked really hard as a team and I think we are going to get better as our new guys gel more.”
Louie spent four seasons at Harlequins, as they were once called, making close to 100 appearances before signing for Saints in 2011.His Saints debut came against Wigan at the 2011 ‘Millennium Magic’ event and he quickly established himself as a real crowd favourite.And this week, ahead of our clash with London Broncos at the Trailfinders on Sunday (kick off 3pm) he has entertained us all in an interview with his ‘pal’ Kevin Naiqama.Kev thanked Louie for welcoming him to the Saints with open arms, before discussing his injury rehab and return against Wakefield in the Coral Challenge Cup, his time over in London and the threat they will pose on Sunday.Make sure you watch the clip until the end so you don’t miss Kev and Louie’s signature handshake!We are taking over 800 fans to the capital on Sunday and tickets for the match are still available from the Ticket Office, via 01744 455 052 and online here.Tickets for Saints Coral Challenge Cup Semi Final against Halifax, Saturday July 27 (KO 4:30pm) at the University of Bolton Stadium, are also on sale for Members by clicking here.