'Make the Mackarness Hall fit for purpose' plea

PUBLISHED: 11:49 30 December 2008 | UPDATED: 14:48 20 April 2010

MAKE the Mackarness Hall, in Honiton, fit for purpose in 2009 - that's the New Year message members of Honiton Senior Council are sending East Devon District Council.

MAKE the Mackarness Hall, in Honiton, fit for purpose in 2009 - that's the New Year message members of Honiton Senior Council are sending East Devon District Council. The district authority leases the building from the neighbouring parish church and is responsible for its upkeep. But lack of disabled access to the building's toilets and a host of other shortcomings have been highlighted during 2008, following public meetings in the venue. Lack of a loop system, poor flooring and inadequate kitchen facilities have been been cited by council tax payers, who use the hall. The senior council, in a statement to the Herald, said it was "very disappointed and concerned" that the district council has said it does not intend to make any improvements to the toilets. The Herald has already pointed out to the district council that it could fall foul of the Disability Discrimination Act under a clause that says "reasonable adjustments" should be carried out in buildings used by the public. The senior council's secretary, Tony Simpson, said: "After complaints during a recent meeting on health and social care, the senior council had a full discussion of the incident and decided to contact East Devon District Council to see how this had arisen and what could be done for the future. "We told the council we did not wish to see the hall closed or to prejudice other users but merely to secure the adaptations needed in law. "After speaking to various officers, it appears the problem has been known about for many years - the council has leased the hall for 15 years and not put this right. To our surprise, they argue it is not required by disability legislation nor is it 'reasonable' for them to spend the money as it is not a priority. Their own buildings come first." East Devon District Council says their lease on the town centre hall is due to expire "shortly", but Honiton Senior Council believes it is likely to run for at least 18 months. "They will then hand the problem to the church, which is clearly going to be a liability," said Mr Simpson. "How can East Devon District Council argue that such a well-used hall in the centre of Honiton is not a priority? How has the disability legislation that others must comply with been avoided for 15 years when the council was given a Customer Service Excellenece Award?" The senior council has told officers at the Knowle that it expects action and will support any bid for urgent Government funding. Nobody from the district council responded to the Herald's recent request for an official reply to the senior council's concerns.

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