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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Quiet hours to be introduced to parks in Mid and East Antrim

The sensory garden at People’s Park in Ballymena.

The sensory garden at People’s Park in Ballymena.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council is to introduce “quiet hours” in its parks in a bid to improve inclusion at its facilities.

The recommendation was one of a number approved at last week’s council meeting at The Braid in Ballymena following proposals by the Inclusion and Equality Sub-Committee.

In May 2021, the council introduced a trial ‘quiet hour’ initiative, a one-hour slot especially for children who enjoy playing in quieter surroundings, at the multi-sensory and ability play area, at the People’s Park in Ballymena.

As well as visitors keeping noise levels to a minimum, council workers ensured there was no noisy machinery in use near the park during these periods.

Also, councillors and council staff are to be given training in the recognition of and awareness of the use of JAM (Just a Minute) cards. A JAM  card “allows people with a hidden disability or communication barrier to tell others that they need extra time and understanding”.

The JAM Card can be used whilst shopping, ordering food, visiting a bank or using public transport, for example. If businesses are ‘JAM Card friendly’, they will know what the card means. There are now more than 1,800 JAM Card businesses and 85,000 service users internationally.

Speaking at last week’s meeting, Larne Lough Alliance Councillor Maeve Donnelly said:

“I am very happy to propose this. It was an excellent meeting and something that came up was that we have all been given the opportunity to do JAM training and it is very important that members do.

“I know from school, my students are taught how to use their JAM card and there is no point them knowing how to use it if they go somewhere and people don’t know what it is or have no awareness of it.”

Seconding the proposal, Carrick Castle Ulster Unionist Cllr Bethany Ferris said:

“I am delighted to see we are considering the additional quiet hours especially in terms of Marine Gardens being refurbished.

“If we could bring quiet hours borough-wide, it is something our communities can be mindful of going forward. So many disabilities are unseen. To just be mindful of each other in those open spaces together, I think, would be wonderful.”

The council also approved the sub-committee’s recommendations to introduce a percentage target for the recruitment of applicants with additional needs within a future workplace policy and to develop a formal scheme and explore potential for an apprenticeship programme.

Councillors also agreed to awareness training in equality and inclusion for themselves and council staff.

At the sub-committee meeting, members discussed with representatives from Castle Tower School in Ballymena, ongoing work placements for their students with the local authority.

Council officers were asked to update the local authority’s website with the parks “quiet hours” and location of Changing Places disabled toilet facilities in the borough.


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