A DEVELOPER has secured permission to have step-free wheelchair-accessible flats in just one of its new blocks.

WSE Property Services has already secured planning permission to build two three-storey blocks with 12 flats on the site of the former Meeting House in Park Close, Coldean.

One of the conditions was to ensure the ground floor flats in both blocks were accessible to most wheelchair users – which means step-free access – before anyone could move in. However, steep slopes meant the company found ramp access to one of the blocks “impossible”.

Providing ramps between three and four metres long with landing space would have an impact on entrances.

During Brighton and Hove City Council’s planning committee meeting on Wednesday, October 6 councillors confirmed with officers that the new builds would comply with the policy to ensure five per cent of the homes are fully wheelchair accessible.

One of the 12 flats is fully wheelchair accessible, and another is accessible and adaptable.

In terms of space, councillors heard all of the flats are potentially accessible to disabled people but not step-free.

The Argus: The former Meeting House on Park CloseThe former Meeting House on Park Close

Planning committee chair Green councillor Leo Littman described disabled access as a theme of the meeting. The only other application they heard, for a performing arts centre at Brighton College, had its decision deferred as councillors were concerned about accessibility.

The committee also heard from Brighton Access for Disabled Groups Everywhere (BADGE) campaigner Pippa Hodge about delays to a lift installation at Rockwater in Hove.

Independent councillor Bridget Fishleigh voted against granting the amendment along with Conservative councillor Dawn Barnett.

She said: “So far this meeting, we’ve decided it’s not acceptable to have a restaurant where people can’t get up to the top floor.

“We’ve decided it’s not acceptable to have a theatre where people can’t get onto the balcony level.

“But we are saying it’s acceptable to have 12 new homes, four on the ground floor and only one that’s accessible for wheelchairs.

“It’s not just about people living there in wheelchairs or with difficulty walking. It’s about their visitors.”

The Argus: Designs for the new flats in ColdeanDesigns for the new flats in Coldean

Former Conservative, now independent councillor, Tony Janio voted in favour of granting the applicant’s request.

He said: “I think in the past when I’ve been casting my eye down the road I live in, I don’t think the houses there are wheelchair accessible. If someone with a wheelchair moved in, they would have to adapt it.

“As the policy exists now out of 12, we will have one purpose-built and one accessible. It’s a move forward. It’s compliant. I will be supporting it.”

Labour councillor Clare Moonan also spoke in favour of granting the application.

She said: “The other two flats aren’t wheelchair accessible if you can’t get through the front door so let’s not pretend they are.

“Nevertheless, we’ll remain with one that’s fully adapted and a second one where someone could visit because they have level access. It’s policy compliant, and I will be supporting this application.”

Councillors voted eight for and two against approving the amended planning permission.

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