Bespoke stairlift for the ancient Town Hall?

HEDON Town Council is to investigate the feasibility and aesthetics of installing of a bespoke stairlift system for the grade II listed Town Hall – but the issue raises some important dilemmas for the council…

HEDON Town Council is to investigate the feasibility and aesthetics of installing of a bespoke stairlift system for the grade II listed Town Hall.

Town hall staircase
The second flight of stairs up to the council chamber

The stairlift which would be uniquely designed to fit in the ancient building without damaging it or affixing to the walls would cost around £50,000+ raised through seeking grants for the project and not from the council itself.

The purpose of the stairlift would be to ensure that people who wish to take part in council meetings in the historic council chamber on the upper floor of the building, and are currently prevented from being able to do so because of disability or having to use a wheelchair, would be able.

Whilst agreeing to investigate the proposal, not all councillors are comfortable with the idea because of the change to the visible appearance of the historic building that would result. From listening to councillors at the town council meeting last night, it seems that the unique stairlift requires being built into the floor of the building and supported from a concrete base and external supporting arms; it would frame but not affix to or damage the existing banister or staircase in any way. But the resulting framing stairlift would itself then become a feature of the ancient building.

A drawing passed around councillors depicting the stairlift failed to convince them all about how the stairlift would finally look. A resolution was supported for a report with better visualizations (plans/drawings/3D-impressions) to be brought back to the council.

The debate in the council chamber however raised some interesting issues – dilemmas – which Blog readers might like to comment on.

Democracy: The council chamber is the historic base of local government in Hedon. Not all our citizens can get up to the chamber by their own volition. Is it right that this is the case – or should the council meet in an alternative venue which is already accessible?

Separate facilities: It has been suggested that the internet, live broadcasts, VOIP facilities (like Skype) could mean that people could watch/take part in meetings remotely. Is it right that disability means that you will always be a remotely located participant?

Expense v frequency of use:  How often would the stairlift be used? How many residents and visitors would actually use the stairlift? If infrequently, then is the £50,000+ expenditure justified (regardless of where the funding has come from). Or would any use of the stairlift by someone with a disability justify that expenditure? 

Access to history and culture: The 17th century council chamber is beautiful and its interior contains historic decor and furnishings.  If you can’t get up to the chamber – unless someone or something physically carries you and your wheelchair up the stairs – your experience of the building can only come from second-hand experience (photos, video, etc).

Ancient buildings and monuments were not built to modern standards of access and are not disabled-friendly – but where it is possible to adapt them, should we do so?

Different people will have different priorities, whether that be placing access, democracy, culture & history or expense as the first priority? But in your opinion, how should the council proceed?

NHS campaigners at Hedon Town Council
NHS campaigners exercising their democratic rights in Hedon council chamber last year – but what if a wheel-chair users campaign group wanted to lobby and attend the council on this issue?

5 thoughts on “Bespoke stairlift for the ancient Town Hall?

  1. At the Town Council’s Property Committee meeting of the 3rd December 2015 it was resolved:

    After a lengthy discussion it was agreed that, although sympathetic to the reasons for fitting a stairlift, the cost was too high compared to how many residents would use it.

    Cllrs agreed to investigate the possibility of a lift to the rear of the premises.

    Resolved: that no further action be taken on installing a stairlift in the Town Hall

    Resolved: that the Council investigate the possibility of a lift to the rear of the Town Hall

  2. Dear Mr Editor, In answer to the query, “With old buildings not being user friendly for disabled people, If possible ,should we adapt them” This in my opinion is a definite YES.
    If no attempt is made to change existing situations in old buildings,(listed or not) then I suggest that disabled people are being discriminated against.

    Apparently, Hedon Town Council have, in the past discussed the possibility of carrying out modifications to the building with a view to be able to hold Civil Marriage Ceremonies in the Council Chamber, As there is a possibility of grants being available for the installation of a lift, then in modern day parlance ” It’s a no brainer”. For a further £1,500 we could also have The Existing Hearing Loop System Upgraded to a modern day installation and get away from having to put a Horse Collar round one’s neck! “Thank you Sarah for all your efforts”. How much would that upgrade cost on the precept?

    Apart from the provision of the skate park for the youngsters of the town, When was the last time any serious money was available to us from ERCC to be able to cater for an ageing population of Hedon (disabled or not) who wish to attend functions in their town. The time is long overdue for major social improvements in our neck of the woods!
    I for one are sick and tired of learning of some or other Beverly organisation having gained grants from ERCC , or this, or that being done in the Beverley area, US MUGS are even paying out to enable so called music lovers to attend Beverley Music Festival.

    And while we are at it so to speak, can’t we sweetheart the landowner of Whychcroft on Magdalen Road to part with some, or all of that area for a purpose built Medical Centre for both Hedon Practices to use, similar to the Hospital on Swinemoor Lane BEVERLEY with parking facilities large enough to eradicate the parking problems of Hedon.
    Yes I know it’s a green area, and in a flood risk zone, so was Swinemoor Lane you either move on or stagnate, as for the lift proposal, HTC have to stop scratting about and DO IT.
    Regards J.R.Uney.

  3. I have been working on this lift project since shortly after my election.I think it’s vital that everyone has the opportunity to be part of the democratic process. The Town Hall is a historic building, so I needed to work out a way of installing a stair lift without causing any damage to the building.Its not been easy but I have found an engineer who specialises in creating stair lifts for ancient buildings. He has drawn up a plan for a lift that would cause no damage to the building and could be taken out if needed. A flag stone would be removed and stored so that the posts supporting the lift could be set in place.The affected soil under the building would be sifted to make sure anything historical could be found and protected.
    I wasn’t aware any working group had been created Last night,many of the Councillors were troubled by the stair lift because they were concerned it might spoil the look of the staircase. At this point another suggested that disabled people be shown to a room downstairs with a computer screen where they could watch the meeting.I find it totally unacceptable that the disabled should be placed in a room separate from the meeting.Last night councillors requested that I get the company to bring in another set of drawings that would help them picture the staircase with a lift. Grants are being pursued to pay for the lift.

    1. Hi Sarah – You’re right, the meeting agreed that it wanted better visualisations and didn’t call for a working group – my mistake. Have amended the main article accordingly – Ray (Editor).

  4. Just to add to your article Ray. The Conservation Officer of ERYC planning dept has expressed support for the £50,000 cantilevered arrangement you have described above. However, he doesn’t support a standard chair lift because it would be attached to the treads of the staircase.
    That option would be around a tenth of the cost!
    John Dennis

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