Linda Garbutt Chairwoman
Barry Gower Secretary
Brian Pickering Treasurer
1 Apologies: there were no apologies for absence.
2 The minutes of the meeting on 9 November 2022 were accepted as a correct record.
3 Matters arising:
3.1 Item 4.2: Recruitment. Barry reported that the letter he had been asked to write had been sent to the Clerk to the Durham City Parish Council, Adam Shanley. The letter has been seen my members of the Council, and will be considered at the meeting of the Council on 26 January 2023. The issue of A-boards in the City and the hazards they present, is being considered by DCC and there will be an opportunity to comment on proposals. Access issues relating to City events such as Lumiere, Miner’s Gala, and the Regatta will be considered at a meeting scheduled for 17 January. The pavement obstructions created by the provision of tables and chairs placed on the City’s streets should also be addressed. Licences are given by DCC to cafes and restaurants for these uses of DCC land, but there are doubts about whether the terms of these licences are adhered to.
3.2 Item 5.1: Cathedral Access Panel. Barry reported that according to information he had received, the Cathedral authorities were hoping that an Access Panel will be inaugurated in the new year.
3.3 Item 6: Barry reported that he had thanked all those Councillors who had contributed funds enabling the Group to meet items of expenditure for 2023, including the costs of our website, and of our subscription to ‘zoom’.
4 Secretary’s business:
4.1 W.H. Smith in Market Place. Barry reported that a neighbour, who is elderly and uses a walker, had contacted the City’s Parish Council Clerk, Adam Shanley, drawing attention to the difficulties she was experiencing in W H Smith’s in negotiating narrow gangways and in using the lift access to the Post Office counter — which was sometimes blocked. Adam asked Barry to join him, and Barry’s neighbour, in a visit to Smiths. We met with the shop manager. Anyone using a pushchair, or with mobility difficulties will need to use the lift to access the Post Office in the basement of the shop. If the lift should fail, which does happen, customers may be stranded in the basement and will need assistance to exit the shop. In the event of a fire, there is an emergency exit, but it cannot be used without assistance. Also, there can be difficulties for anyone using the lift when the queue for a Post Office counter extends up the stairway. In general, some users of Smiths are disadvantaged by narrow cluttered aisles in the ground floor shop, and especially by the decision to locate the only the only Post Office in the City centre in a basement with potentially hazardous accessibility.
4.2 Pedestrian underpass bridge. The most recent information about the pedestrian underpass between Riverwalk and Milburngate indicates that it will incorporate steps and will therefore be unusable for anyone using a wheelchair or mobility scooter. It would appear that the alternative route is via a lift in Milburngate, and Framwellgate Waterside, though the pavement adjacent to the Odeon car park becomes very steep and will not be useable by some wheelchair and mobility scooter users. Despite these difficulties, DCC appears to believe that the new development is accessible to all.
4.3 DLI museum and gallery. The DCC Disability Partnership arranged a meeting with officers planning the development of the DLI museum and its environs. Len and Barry attended this meeting, which was very informative and useful for both the building itself and the adjacent parkland. Careful consideration is being given to the accessibility of an important addition to the City’s attractions.
4.4 Lunch at Duke of Wellington. Barry said that he and his wife Diana, are meeting with Linda and Alice for lunch at the Duke of Wellington pub (Merryoaks) at 12.30pm on Wednesday 1 February. Members of the Access Group, and their partners, would be most welcome to join us. In the past, we have sometimes met together in January for a lunch together; this is an attempt to revive that practice. We hope it will be a success. If anyone would like help with transport, that can be arranged; please let Barry know. Barry will book a table, so if you intend to come, please let him know.
5 Treasurer’s business:
Brian reported that contributions from Councillors Brown, Hopgood, Eric Mavin, Lesley Mavin, Scott, and Wilkes, have provided the Group with £550. There have been some delays in addressing the issue of public liability insurance for the Group.
6 Pendant alarms.
These alarms are used by elderly and disabled people to access assistance in case of falls or other occasions when help is needed. In Durham, pendant alarms are provided by DCC’s Care Connect facility. Brian reported that some difficulties with the facility had arisen. David will make further enquiries. Councillor Liz Brown asked to be informed of any issues with the facility.
7 Secure space for Guide Dogs.
David is about to acquire a new Guide Dog, and needs to identify an easily accessible area in the City where his dog can run free. It needs to be as large as possible, but secure. The matter has been brought to the attention of the local Area Action Partnership but funding has not been agreed. Councillor Liz Brown, who is Chairwoman of the local Area Action Partnership, will try to resolve any problems preventing the allocation of funding.
8 The next meeting of the Group will be on Wednesday 8 March 2023 at 2.00pm.