Guernsey is 'behind times on disability issues'

THE island is 20 years behind the UK when it comes to dealing with disability issues, according to one property owner.

John Millns with his 84-year-old mother, Freda, who suffers from dementia. He sought permission to create vehicular access to his property by knocking through the granite wall, but he was denied by planners and his appeal was turned down. (Picture by Steve Sarre, 1286266)
John Millns with his 84-year-old mother, Freda, who suffers from dementia. He sought permission to create vehicular access to his property by knocking through the granite wall, but he was denied by planners and his appeal was turned down. (Picture by Steve Sarre, 1286266)

THE island is 20 years behind the UK when it comes to dealing with disability issues, according to one property owner.

John Millns was speaking after a planning appeals tribunal dismissed his challenge to a planning refusal to let him create vehicular access to his home.

His father is wheelchair bound and his mother suffers from dementia.

His home has no vehicular access and is on a different level to the road.

He said the planning authority was oblivious to disability issues.

‘There’s no law, no concern and no interest, not just here but all over the island and it all stems from planning.’

Comments for: "Guernsey is 'behind times on disability issues'"

Neil

I totally agree with you Mr Millns the island has and never will get to grips with disability issues, they are and always will be happy with the fact if your disabled stay in doors out of sight out of mind, when it comes to the disabled the island should be ashamed of itself, I being disabled myself and a local had to move away to the UK to get a better life, the island is living in the dark ages when it comes to disability.

pyer

Another case of very sour grapes from someone who is unable to accept a decision

You chose to move to that property with limited access, so just deal with it

Martino

Well said pyer. Looks to me as if he was trying to use his elderly mother's 'disability issues' as a cynically convenient excuse to gain a permanent parking space in a property that was not designed to have one. If the planners had relented the floodgates would have opened.

More Local Than You

I agree fully.

Shame on the planning authority.

becks

Neil,

Perhaps you can advise Mr Millns on places to go for peace of mind and better access for his relations because he obviously didn't do very good by deciding to move to his present location.

I would have thought it pretty obvious that he wouldn't get planning permission for a gateway on such a congested cross road junction.

Not only would he make it dangerous for other road users just think of the delays his contractors would have to cause to demolish and rebuild the wall to the property.

It is a totally stupid idea and I suggest that if access is so important then buy another property with all the disability access you will need for the future.

soph

Conundrum! Yes I am getting old with access issues to my property for me. I know that soon may have to move to live a few years extra independence.

So Mr Millns cannot you go down same route for your parents?

Expat

Guernsey is completely out of touch when it comes to helping the disabled and those who make ridiculous statements about sour grapes and excuses to get parking spaces (Pyer & Martino) should be ashamed of themselves. I hope they never have an accident or get old and have limited mobility.

As for Guernsey, it's only a matter of time before someone takes the States for all they're worth because the physically challenged can't get into 90% of the shops in town (and if they can get in they have difficulty getting around inside the shops) -- and then pushing a wheelchair up and down the cobblestones in the High Street is no fun either. I understand about the "old world" charm of town, but the disabled/physically challenged (and let's remember that we now also have a group of heroes with physical challenges returning from these ghastly conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan) have every right to be able to get around easily so they too can enjoy the island and all its amenities like the rest of us.

Martino

Now this really is ridiculous. If you had your way we'd have stair lifts up the pier steps and a disabled friendly travelator all the way along the High Street - and at taxpayers' expense. Plus a lift to the top of Victoria Tower no doubt?

But getting back to the point, Soph has it right. 90 per cent of us live in buildings with disability limitations. I live in a top floor apartment and I have to climb three small sets of stairs quite a few times every day. Also I have an elderly relative who lives up two flights of stairs. Like Soph, we both know that we will have to MOVE from our present accommodation come the time these steps get too much for us.

The guy in this story is using his parents' disabilities as a lever to get himself a parking space in a property where parking is totally inappropriate.

Dani

Can disabled people sue for not being able to gain access? I don't think there is a Disability Discrimination Law here yet!

I think the attitude you have of appreciating town for its character and respecting that it is very difficult to change things the best one to have. It's much better than the American culture of getting into legal battles.

What I would like to see is a more focused effort on meeting the disabled half way. Maybe by setting targets saying so many shops should become accessible by such a date and thinking of how to achieve it and actually doing it. Maybe looking at what other countries have done and adapting their ideas. This is because I do totally agree with you. Town should be accessible to everyone.

pyer

too many laws =

too many lawyers =

the rich / poor divide gets wider than ever

Toby

Does that mean you think it Ok to have a planning law to protect the environment but not Ok to have a law to protect the rights of disabled people?

Dani

Excuse my ignorance but I wonder who can draft the law? I know law officers draft them but can other people? What are the requirements beyond knowledge of the law? Can any advocate do it? If one of them felt strongly about it could they draft their own and submit it for review? Then after they have ok'd it does it go before the states? I've wondered this before because social legislation tends to take the back seat and there are only so many law officers. It may be a way to help things along? If anyone could set me straight I'd appreciate it.

Stats

90% of the shops....thats a bit of an exageration, Expat.

You complain about pushing a wheelchair up the cobblestones of the high street, what about the gradient of Smith Street?

I say lets close all the shops in town, create a new warehouse style shopping complex on the flat uncobbled North Beach car park with every store three times the size they are now to allow ever bigger mobility scooters easy access.

Meanwhile, Ronais should be contracted to flatten the entire island

Dani

Good on Mr Millns.

Disabled people on the island should be able to make their own homes suitable for their needs. The planning department policies and procedures need to reflect this.

Stats

The article doesn't mention if Mr Millns parents actually live at the property or what was the planning tribunals' reason for declining the application to knock down the granite wall?

Disabled or not disabled shouldn't affect the decision in this "equal society", you can't say in one breath that you should ignore this planning rule as this person has a disability and yet punish those that supposedly discriminate against a disabled person.

Toby

Think you have missed the point of disability discrimination Law and a reasonable adjustment made within a planning regulation. It isn't an equal society, being disabled means you can't do things other people take for granted. Where a refused planning application may be disappointing and inconvenient to an able bodied person, they would have the choice to live with it or move. A disabled person may have no choice and be forced to move, and they would be restricted in their choice of property because of their disability. Disabled people don't ask for special treatment they ask for a a level playing field. That means people like planning departments taking need into account when making decisions.

Martino

Sorry Toby but your argument stinks. Whether the occupants are disabled or not, black or not, gay or not, muslim or not, vegan or not, should not make a blind bit of difference as to whether a planning application is accepted or denied.

In a case like this the planners should consider, just as they do at the moment, ONLY as to whether or not the property is suitable for a parking space. In this case it clearly is not. End of.

If the planners were to discriminate positively in cases like this in favour of disabled people it would be absolutely crazy. Fast forward a few years to when the elderly disabled residents are gone and, hey presto, the fit and able bodied householder in question has a parking space in his front garden while his neighbours either side are denied similar applications.

This is just one reason why why disabled 'rights' legislation should never be introduced locally. It will end up being a costly and bureaucratic nightmare and a charter for crazy decisions like the one you want to see here. Absolute madness.

Toby

Being a black, gay, vegan of any religious denomination wouldn't prevent me walking 100 yards from my car and up steps to access my home, being a wheelchair user might!

CSR

Good points and well made Toby; I think that the planners do take into consideration the need for disabled persons to have reasonable access to their properties when looking at applications, but the one thing that they also have to take into consideration is that there may not always be a disabled person living at that property, so whilst they could approve an application based on the needs of a resident at one particular time, they probably couldn't put a condition on the permission so that it was only valid for the lifetime of the applicant (or dependant relative living at same address).

I suspect that there is more background to the case than the GP have reported on, but the tribunal's full ruling I'm sure is on the Gov.gg website somewhere.

Shelaine Green

Spot on arguments, Toby. If you aren't a member of the GDA already, we'd love to have you on board.

You've pinpointed the key difference in between disability and other 'protected characteristics' like age, race, gender etc. Which is that disabled people may need consideration of 'reasonable adjustments' to achieve equality. Might be a ramp, might be adjusted working hours, might be large print.

But all must pass the *reasonable* test.

Shelaine Green

Hi Stats

Just to explain with regard to your point about equality, the important thing is that the *outcome* for everyone is equal. The *method* of achieving that outcome may indeed be unequal.

To give you an example - having accessible parking spaces outside Waitrose is, in itself, unequal treatment because not everyone can park there, only Blue Badge holders.

But the equality comes from the fact that, because they can access the store easily, disabled people are able to do their weekly shop with ease, just like everyone else.

Hence, in the case of planning, 'disabled or not disabled' (as you put it) *should* affect the planning decision. It doesn't mean you automatically win your case, far from it. But it should be taken into account in making a fair decision.

Martino

What utter nonsense. More proof if any were needed that disabled rights legislation will turn out to be a nightmare if enacted locally. Be honest, you are not asking for a level playing field - you are asking for heavily sloping playing field in favour of people with disabilities.

The States should carry on making special provision for the disabled where practical, such as providing special parking spaces etc, but to enshrine these provisions in law would be an act of madness and lead to an avalanche of crazy applications like this one that the courts would be obliged to confirm.

Shelaine Green

Hi Martino

Was working on a document yesterday and was looking for a quote like this. Wanted something that would sum up why disabled people cannot purely rely on the goodwill of their fellow islanders to break down the barriers to being included in society that they face every day.

You've nailed it. Thank you.

Dani

It's all about access to equal rights.

Article 8 of the human rights law says you have right to enjoy living peacefully in a home without disturbance of the public authorities. No prevention of you living in that home is allowed without very good reason.

Public authorities are only allowed to intervene on a few circumstances. The one in your way is that the consideration of other laws must be taken into account. I/e the planning law.

The planning process does not allow or even factor in consideration of access to the equal right of being able to continue living in ones own home undisturbed when disabled.

It is said that public authorities should not discriminate against a group of people under article 14 in reference to another article (The one in question being 8).

As As the process does not consider disability I think it is in contravention with those articles and needs to be changed. Perhaps someone with more knowledge/authority can confirm this and hopefully add weight to yours and Mr Millns cause.

What I suggest is getting in touch with all the deputies that supported you when they were getting elected and discuss how the planning process can be changed. I know one or two of them want it edited for other reasons so you have a higher chance of success this way.

Stiletto

I am disappointed for Mr Millns, who did not achieve his and his elderly parents' human right, following appeal.

I assume Martino, you are jumping to conclusions from your cynical comment, do you know Mr Millns personally, but just dislike his plans?

I don't know the gentleman, neither do I know if when he planned his move to Guernsey, that he invisaged caring for his parents. That is his business.

@Shelaine Green

Glad you have stepped in since I would like to add my oar with regard to disabled consumer quality; I recently had to use sticks to get about,sport injury, in two shops in town where I went for shoes the person with me was asked for my shoe size.

Shelaine Green

Hi Stiletto

The problem with the word discrimination is that it automatically makes people think of an act that is deliberately unfair.

Whereas in many cases, it's something that happens unconsciously with no deliberate attempt to treat others unequally. But the person on the receiving end still feels its effects.

Thank you for raising this. As mentioned to Martino above, the Guernsey Disability Alliance is currently collecting stories such as yours to use as examples in the run up to the Disability Strategy going to the States for approval next year.

If anyone else would like to share their experience, feel free to do so here, or email info@disabilityalliance.org.gg. Positive stories welcome, not just the bad stuff - can learn from both.

We have a Facebook page so if anyone wants to follow our work in promoting equality for disabled people in Guernsey, why not give us a 'like'?And if you'd like to become a member of the GDA, just let us know using the email address above.

Dani

Has a Grand Father clause been considered/already implemented in terms of town building planning?

This is when in some situations an old rule continues to apply while a new rule will apply to future situations.

I think of what happened in Japan. With all the trouble they had with the earthquakes they needed to upgrade the buildings to cope with seismic activity. What they said is when you rebuild you must upgrade to code but existing properties do not need to because of the cost.

Our buildings are not going to be destroyed in an earthquake but over time it seems reasonable that when amendments and new builds are made that being accessible to the disabled is enabled.

There has been good work done by the St Peter Port Douzaine. They are altering their premises and will be becoming disability accessible. Didn't they also just put in a ramp instead of steps out side the Albion? It was fitting with the area and cost appropriate. I think they did a lovely job.

I don't see why anyone would object to further adjustments like those being made. I think these types of adjustments are those that could be focused on for improving town for disabled people. I really hope to see them being made and being worked on.

Jake

I have to say I do feel the new ramp at church square was a waste of money! Not only is there easy access by just going the other way around the church on the existing road / pavement there is also access up by Marks and Spencer! There was no need for a new ramp as access was already available very close by.

Whats next? the steps by costa leading to the arcade because the existing wheelchair access is too far away? how about a ramp leading from the top of the high street down to the seafront by the candy shop?

I'm all for making it easer for disabled access however when there are already adequate methods very close by.

I feel the time/money could have been better spent else where (maybe making a different part of town more accessible.

Ray

Jake

The new granite ramp will probably last several hundred years ... bringing the cost down to about threepence halfpenney per week

CSR

Jake,

That's a slightly selfish attitude to take, I presume you have never tried pushing a wheelchair (complete with a person in it obviously) or moving yourself in a wheelchair. I think that if you had, then you would realise that every yard/metre extra to do so can quickly become very tiring and in this case, unnecessary.

Yes there is access further up Church Hill, but that means going through a 'pinch point' at the crossing where the pavement is at its busiest. The access up Quay Street is extremely difficult for pushchairs,let alone wheel chairs as the pavements and road are narrow and a lot of traffic uses that road to access Church Square.

Ray's cost breakdown brings it very much into perspective and I for one applaud the action taken to provide better access for the disabled, I wonder why you are so negative.

Stiletto

@ Shelaine

I hope people will come forward with their experiences and, I wish you and your colleagues every success with the Disability Strategy.

In my case, I did not find the experience denigrating, I am one of the very fortunate beings who have regained full use of my legs, I was take slightly taken aback by the lack of 'education' displayed by the shops' staff. Maybe this angle in general could also be considered for your Green Paper.

Shelaine Green

Hi Stiletto

We expect the need for education to raise awareness to be part of the proposed States Disability Strategy, certainly. It is not enough on its own though. I know you aren't suggesting it should be, but some people do. Education needs to be underpinned by a simple disabilty equality law.

The key benefit of a law is not the ability to take cases to court or tribunal. We actually don't anticipate there being many. The key benefit is that it jumpstarts organisations into amending their poilicies and procedures and seeking out the training you speak of.

Hi Dani

Happily the grandfather clause you are seeking already exists. Guernsey's Building Regulations include an accessibility section called Part M which covers all new builds, plus extension, alteration or change of use of non-domestic buildings.

In addition, the Guernsey Housing Association, in partnership with the Housing Dept, has gone a stage further. All of their new builds are now designed to Lifetime Homes Standard. This means they can easily be adapted as people's mobility needs change.

Dave Jones

Thanks for the recognition Shelaine.

All future Social housing will be disability compliant and it costs no more to put in wider door ways for better wheel chair access, than it does a conventional standard door. We made it one of our conditions so it wasn’t left just to the planning officers to decide.

There is still sadly a huge amount of stigma attached to those with disabilities, it is improving but none the less there is a long way to go before there is the kind of level playing field that will allow people the same quality of life as all able bodied people enjoy.

The “does he take sugar” syndrome is sadly still there and my wife who is a carer for H&SSD, comes across it now and again when she is out and about with those she assists in their daily lives.

The GDA does a huge amount of work advising departments like mine on how to improve internal and external spaces for the disabled and in my view they should be properly funded in order that they can do more to improve the lives of many.

guern

I asked the housing for a new back path so my Blind Son could walk down, the housing said no as it would cost to much so he can not walk down the back path by himself so he can only go out the front way which leads onto the main road.Housing do not look after the Disabled.

Ray

guern

That sounds just the sort of job local banks or the bigger companies like to take on as a community project

They'd probably get your path fixed in a day, or at least in a weekend

Any bankers reading this?

CSR

Guern,

Can I suggest you contact the manager at States Works who runs the Community & Environmental Projects Scheme (CEPS) as they may be able to help in this case.

Good luck for the future:-)