Menu
Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

HBC perseveres with disability discrimination for proposed Harold Place restaurant

Following the recent article here on the newbuild restaurant proposals, Hastings Borough Council  (HBC) alleged a ‘misleading and inaccurate headline and article’. A detailed comment was published that resisted the charge. Bernard McGinley takes another look. When is a lift not a lift?

The Council’s Communications Office was rapid in announcing ‘there is a lift included in the application’, for the proposed new restaurant building in Harold Place. The application, from May to December 2021, had no lift proposed. What was being referred to was the platform lift, added in December and mistaken (by me) for a dumbwaiter.  

On the casefile, the Design and Access Statement (DAS, Part 3, p42), published in September, still states that

the tenant does not require a lift to the first floor. 

Unfortunately the law does (Equality Act, ch. 2, s.15, and ch. 3, s.29). There is a duty to make reasonable adjustments, including for service businesses, regarding access.

The Architects’ Journal explained the issues in 2018: 

. . . building control will expect that lift access is provided or that an access statement is submitted to explain why a deviation from best practice is necessary. An access statement should say why and what the implications are for users.

The application has no access statement other than the DAS one above.

Even in January 2022, one of the DAS Design Team published a document again showing the building with no lift: more contradiction.

A short history

The Council’s application was assessed at many formal meetings and other technical ones:  

  HBC Cabinet, March 2018 (Item 6). (Then the cost was estimated at £860,000. Now it is double that.)

Cabinet, December 2019  (Item 4). (Human Rights Act implications? ‘No’.)

  Full Council, 12 February 2020.

  Pre-application proforma advice was sought in April 2021, and provided in May. (See Application Form, Section 23.) Disabled access went unmentioned (save for ‘wheelchair accessible development‘ in a referenced checklist).

   The Design & Access Statement (DAS) was done in the summer by a design team comprising design, consultancy and engineering practices: professionals with fearless views on requirements, following analysis and evaluation.

In September 2021 the planning application was made by the Council’s Estates Manager.

In October it went to Cabinet and Full Council for further scrutiny. (The £1.7m loan was approved.) In at least eight assessments, disability discrimination was nowhere noted. The platform lift detail was added after all these phases.   

Sequential neglect

Nowhere in the phases of scrutiny was it realised that having no lift or a platform lift in a new building was disability discrimination, and that that was against the Building and the Equality Regulations, and the law. Other than in exceptional circumstances, new buildings must have passenger lifts so that wheelchair-users and others are not hindered or disadvantaged unnecessarily.  

The architects attempted a rebuttal, in a statement published on 31 January. Unfortunately it was assertion, essentially bluster, not engagement with the detail of the objections: 

Therefore we believe the specification of an enclosed platform lift for this small single use buildings [sic] will meet the needs of all staff and customers and will fully comply with building regulations. 

The Building Regulations (Part M, vol 2) prescribe passenger lifts for all buildings, and add:  

3.22  For existing buildings, and in exceptional circumstances for new developments with particular constraints (e.g. a listed building or an infill site in a historic town centre), where a passenger lift cannot be accommodated, a vertical lifting platform (enclosed platform lift), although not equivalent to a passenger lift, may be considered as an alternative option to provide access for persons with impaired mobility.

Those circumstances and constraints do not exist here. Harold Place is not an infill site, and wheelchair-users deserve equality. The wide pavement gives ample space for a lift shaft.

Platform lifts are not even suitable for all wheelchair users, including the easily fatigued – a standard platform lift is operated by continuous-pressure push buttons. To reiterate, the Building Regs and the underpinning Act do not allow for a platform lift in a new building, except in

exceptional circumstances for new developments with particular constraints 

These are not those circumstances. The key constraint here is disability discrimination, unlawful.

Observations

Cllr Andy Patmore, Leader of the Conservative Group on HBC, described the Council’s application as ‘Only second best is good enough’. He commented: 

One of the main reasons given for HBC developing a new building themselves was they could control the design and get the best for the town. This obviously doesn’t ring true if you are disabled.

The Equality Act imposes a requirement to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that a disabled person is not discriminated against.

Why would the Council deviate from best practice when they are solely responsible for the design and construction of this new building?

He quoted from a December 2019 paper: 

The option for the Council to redevelop the site itself incurs potentially more costs if there are additional unforeseen costs, but would retain more control in terms of what is built than if disposed of by long lease.

’More control’ obviously doesn’t mean providing the best access for all citizens. Disabled users are getting second best.   

Cllr Julia Hilton, Leader of the HBC Green Group, was clear:  

There shouldn’t be any disability discrimination. 

She thought the whole proposal ill thought out and the building certainly not ‘iconic’, adding more generally: 

This site is an essential part of the Hastings Garden town vision and any development of the site should have been considered as part of the landscaping masterplan being drawn up as part of the Garden Town proposals.

Neither Castle Ward councillor replied to a request for comment. 

A Council spokesperson said that Building Control involvement would follow planning permission, and ignored a query about the appearance of disability discrimination:  cart-before-horse, and evidence of evasion respectively.

Wheelchair-users

Following the 2010 Act, local major organisations including HBC issued their own Equality & Human Rights Charter. The Charter’s concerns include a commitment to eliminating discrimination, including by removal of unlawful discrimination against disability, and minimising as far as possible the disadvantages of disability. There’s also talk of engagement, and involvement to

          •                design better services.

All commendable but HBC is not practising this. Wheelchair-users and other people with disabilities seem as invisible as ever, despite the apparent progress of recent decades. The planners’ rejection of the White Rock Hotel ramp application (HS/FA/19/00815) was telling.  

A new proposed golf attraction on the seafront (application HS/FA/22/00005) ominously proposes a platform lift only, not a passenger lift.   

The Harold Place case is being discussed by the Planning Committee on Wednesday 23 March. Comments on the application (citing ref HS/FA/21/00905) can be made to the Council (by Friday 18th) on:

           dccomments@hastings.gov.uk

or by post to Muriel Matters House, TN34 3UY.

Design and impact 

In other ways too the benefits of this proposal are elusive. The DAS says nothing about renewable sources of energy, such as wind power or solar power for a new building. The carbon efficiency has been found wanting, and no heat exchangers are proposed. For a new building, the design is poor, and is not ‘regeneration’.

Government laws set rigorous food and hygiene standards enforced by council  environmental departments. Food Standards Agency advice is extensive.

HBC’s new-build restaurant should set best example. Yet there is no separate staff toilet contrary to Workplace Regulations 1992. European Food Law and Building regulations require that toilets should not lead directly into rooms in which food is prepared or eaten. The ground floor Disabled WC has no lobby and opens directly onto the kitchen serving hatch and restaurant. First-floor WCs have a lobby but without doors. Both toilets are in breach of regulations.

Regeneration projects must provide best staff facilities, but this does not. Establishments run by Loungers UK, the designated operator, have signature big bars which remain open long after the kitchen. These plans ignore the most basic catering facilities: the kitchen and food store are small, no private secure space for a manager, no staff cloakroom, no first floor staff service area, no cleaning cupboards on either floor, no kitchen dumbwaiter to service the upper floor. 

Additional problems include the restaurant location, with heavy traffic, a bus stop, flooding and drainage questions, a balcony facing away from the sea, no sea view downstairs, and those issues the police mentioned, such as adding to potential disorder in the area.

HBC in its Planning Statement (para 9) is explicit about Loungers attracting local people, and not seeking custom from further afield. Meanwhile many nearby businesses struggle and good premises go empty. The operator can exercise a break clause after just 10 years.

Major misjudgement, again

Despite assertions by HBC and their agents about ‘regeneration’ and ‘quality’, this proposal amounts to a breach of the fairness principle that it is unlawful for service providers to discriminate against a disabled person for a reason related to their disability. It’s hard to see how this application can be approved by the Planning Committee in its present form. 

Are HBC really going to approve discrimination by having a platform lift in a new building? That would indicate standards at or below the minimum, an insult to people with disabilities. Is that how HBC wants Hastings to be seen? The manifest failure of HBC’s prestige, seafront, ‘destination’ project that was Azur, seems to be a dirty secret now 15 years on, no lessons learnt. Why repeat history? The complete lack of civic pride shown by many members and officers is strange.

If you’re enjoying HOT and would like us to continue providing fair and balanced reporting on local matters please consider making a donation. Click here to open our PayPal donation link.Thank you for your continued support!

Posted 18:27 Tuesday, Feb 22, 2022 In: Home Ground

6 Comments

Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. chris hurrell

    Follow the money indeed.
    Why does HBC now propose to compound the problems it identified with Harold Place in its own 2015 Seafront Strategy? This identified the issues with Harold Place – this new building makes them worse. In the words of HBCs own document:

    “7.f Harold Place Objective

    – Improve the urban realm and linkages between Hastings Town Centre and the beach and promenade to maximise their mutual benefit.

    Hastings Town Centre has the highest footfall of any locality in the borough, yet Harold Place is arguably the worst and least welcoming point of access to the beach and promenade along the whole seafront. The direct route entails passing the public conveniences, along a footpath that is ill-defined on one side of the road and lifeless on the other, through a particularly uninviting subway, and emerging up a bleak ramp behind the seawall. There is no pedestrian road crossing at surface level……

    The issue could be addressed by reconfiguring the pedestrian routes and public realm at Harold Place, with options to create a linear piazza and pocket park linking Havelock Road to Carlisle Parade, improving the public realm at the Harold Place/Carlisle parade junction, relocating the public toilets, landscaping and animation on the beach itself, and “shared space” or other pedestrian-friendly measures. There are opportunities to increase commercial values in this area, generate more economic activity, and create new jobs.”

    Sadly the proposed new building just makes things even worse. Drinks all round….

    Comment by chris hurrell — Monday, Feb 28, 2022 @ 17:43

  2. Keith Piggott

    Bernard McGinley is credible, the restaurant plan is not – no Lavrov double-speak can make it so. However, what of the economic argument for a restaurant there? Nationally, bars and restaurants either have closed or barely survived for the two years of Covid economic meltdown. Locally, the Dragon Bar and Fagin’s only survived by draining reserves, and by cushioning their loyal staff. And are there not ‘eatery’ businesses around the proposed site that shall not welcome the council’s competition? And who is this council’s tenant who does not require or ignores legal requirement for disabled facilities? Has not the council a duty? And has not the council enforced those facilities even in the smallest venues? The Dragon Bar was made to sacrifice kitchen space and seating areas, for rarely used facilities on a ground floor. Of course ‘economic sense’ is not a planning matter. But what is, when planning officers routinely ignore Statutory also Heritage also Planning regulations, and Vice Planning Chairs overtly divert a petition against a false Trojan Horse application? Bernard, follow the money.
    Keith Piggott

    Comment by Keith Piggott — Monday, Feb 28, 2022 @ 10:22

  3. Heather Grief

    You are forgetting parents with babies and young children in prams and buggies; we all start our life as babies, and of course many of us later on become less able and struggle with stairs.
    Then there are the number of loos – why more for men than women, when women take on average 4 times longer because of clothing etc.
    Not to mention the nonsense of the kitchen being on the south side of the building, where the staff will boil in the summer.
    And why can’t we have a tourist attraction there, like an exhibition space for a changing programme of history etc exhibitions / artefacts that used to be in the Old Town Museum / tourist information?

    Comment by Heather Grief — Friday, Feb 25, 2022 @ 19:02

  4. D.Barrett

    I despair. This Harold Place build will be a tombstone for Hastings Labour Party. A dismal reflection of Hastings self devouring, fear led tribal political scene.

    When a Labour majority council make town centre regeneration plans with no public consultation.
    When council plans betray their self declared ‘socialist green’ principles.
    When they favour corporate big business over community, our disabled friends, our fellow workers rights.
    When Hastings Labour Party dares not publicly query obviously bad decision making by their comrades at the council – good friends are honest with one another but not here.
    When to succeed with plans they ignore planning law & feed the community Orwellian doublethink.

    Local Labour’s tired old election campaign mantra is ‘do not to vote Green or Lib Dem as you will get Tory’ – but such decisions by this Labour run council show we vote Labour & get Tory practices from Labour.

    WAKE UP! It is not too late to pull these plans to regain Labour community respect.

    Comment by D.Barrett — Thursday, Feb 24, 2022 @ 14:57

  5. chris hurrell

    Good article. One reason given by HBC for building themselves was to have control over the design of the building. I don’t understand why HBC have managed to create such sub standard building with sub standard facilities which fail to meet minimum requirements under building regulations and equalities legislation.

    Maybe HBC should have familiarised themselves with Government guidance prior to producing such a poor design? The 2006 Planning and access for disabled people: a good practice guide would have been a good place to start.

    HBC will no doubt claim that such matters as disabled access are a matter for building control. However the good practice guide states that
    “Too often the needs of disabled people are considered late in the day and separately from the needs of others. We want to change that. We want the needs of disabled people properly considered as an integral part of the development process……Planning officers and developers often see inclusive design as a Building Regulations issue, to be addressed once planning permission has been granted, not at the planning application stage. The various statutory functions (planning, conservation/listed buildings, highways, and Building Regulations) are often considered independently or sequentially. As a result, potential conflicts in policy objectives are not properly addressed and opportunities for delivering common, effective solutions are missed…”

    It’s not too late to do things properly. Building Control need to be involved and proper facilities included in this application prior to any planning decision being made.

    Comment by chris hurrell — Wednesday, Feb 23, 2022 @ 12:30

  6. Mr Blair

    This regen project has zero merit inside & out . This building design is not people friendly – especially not for the disabled.

    The ones I see benefitting are Bristol based restaurant chain Loungers UK – currently opening up a new site every 2 wks. In nearby Bognor Regis they’re opening up at an old ‘Bon Marché’ site – Plenty of empty shops in Hastings town centre for them to do the same.

    Has there been transparency over the tender process for this projects architects & designers? It seems strange that HBC have chosen one based in Bristol (as are Loungers UK) instead of using a local practice.

    HBC councillors claim our community will be happy for job opportunities. The hospitality trade is hard graft & rife with exploitation – especially in overblown chain companies with minimal skills to learn. Top tip: work for a local independent if you want to gain a catering skill set not a chain where you will be flipping burgers & microwaving frozen food.

    Who’d want their daughters waitressing late at night at a high crime zone? How will staff get home long after public transport finishes? Loungers UK advertise for staff on minimum wage & zero hours – a quick Google shows them on the Government shame and name lists for 2016 and 2017 paying sub minimum wages (& reported in The Mirror). Will staff be able to join local UNISON (based at Muriel Matters House), will HBC ensure their worker rights?

    Meanwhile you’ve nearby local companies like Jempsons who will endure months of disruption from the build then their income diminished by competition – diminishing staff levels & donations to the local charities they support – inc food banks.

    It beggars belief that our Labour run council are so feverishly keen to bulldoze these crazy plans through – at the cost of the community & to the benefit of big business.

    Comment by Mr Blair — Wednesday, Feb 23, 2022 @ 10:33

Leave a comment

(no more than 350 words)

Also in: Home Ground

«
»
More HOT Stuff
  • SUPPORT HOT

    HOT is run by volunteers but has overheads for hosting and web development. Support HOT!

    ADVERTISING

    Advertise your business or your event on HOT for as little as £20 per month
    Find out more…

    DONATING

    If you like HOT and want to keep it sustainable, please Donate via PayPal, it’s easy!

    VOLUNTEERING

    Do you want to write, proofread, edit listings or help sell advertising? then contact us

    SUBSCRIBE
  • Subscribe to HOT