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  • Michelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

MEA Council signals support for further ‘Changing Places’ toilets for disabled

A Changing Places facility at Carnfunnock Country Park. Included: Deputy Mayor Cllr Matthew Armstrong.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has recommended support for Changing Places toilets for disabled users in its reponse to a public consultation on the introduction of the facility in certain buildings in a report presented to councillors on Monday evening.

The local authority has already given a commitment to providing Changing Places for disabled people as funding becomes available.

New Changing Places toilets opened in Carnfunnock Country Park outside Larne and at the People’s Park in Ballymena and will be included in a new toilet block at Larne Town Park.

Changing Places have also been earmarked for the new Ballymena leisure centre and at Larne Leisure Centre and The Amphitheatre in Carrickfergus.

In Northern Ireland, there is 1.4 fully accessible toilet per 100,000 people.

Changing Places include changing benches, hoists and space for two carers. The equipment costs approximately £15,000.

The council’s Disability Champion Braid Councillor Beth Adger has said previously that the council should acknowledge the commitment made last October to initiate Changing Places in its buildings when it has funding available and to acknowledge the provision of Changing Places facilities at major events, which she said, has been “very successful”.

The Mae Murray Foundation has stated:

“As an organisation, we are committed to ensuring dignified toileting for all at all of our events and we choose destinations based on these facilities. We would be delighted to be able to use Carnfunnock as a base more often for our all-ability activities, thereby increasing participation opportunities for those most in need.”

Speaking at a meeting of the council’s Direct Services Committee last week, Larne Lough Alliance Councillor Danny Donnelly said:

“It is great to have the new long-term facility Carnfunnock.

“It is great this council is taking Changing Places seriously and developing areas where people can come that are fully accessible and be able to use the toilet facilities they need.”

Bannside DUP councillor Alderman Tommy Nicholl stated the notice of motion had been brought to the council by his party colleague Councillor Adger and was supported by the local authority.

“I would commend Cllr Adger for doing that but maybe some people have a very short memory about how it all started.”

Finance Minister Conor Murphy said at the consultation launch:

“The approach we are outlining would introduce a requirement for Changing Places toilets to be fitted in certain buildings meeting specified critera.

“This is an important step in dignity and equality which will make an immense difference to the lives of disabled people, their carers and their families.

“By enhancing Changing Places toilets provision, it will bring us closer to having proper facilities available in buildings where people who need to access them.”

The consultation will explore the cost implications and benefits associated with the provision of Changing Places.

A report to the council’s Borough Growth Committee says that the council endorses the introduction of Changing Places toilets as a compliance requirement within building regulations.

The consultation closes on October 2021.