Dear Abingdon Town Council,

Please could you provide me with details of considerations by the town council of physical adjustments to their properties and services so as to not disadvantage disabled persons. Where adjustments have been found to be reasonable and have been undertaken, please provide the costs of the adjustment.

For example: when the County Hall Museum was being refurbished from 2010-2013, a lift was installed to provide access to the basement levels.

If available, I would like this information starting from 1995.

Yours faithfully,

James Davis

Nigel Warner, Abingdon Town Council

Dear Mr Davis

 

Thank you for your e-mail of  14^th  July 2016, the receipt of which
I acknowledge.  I shall respond within the statutory timescale.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Nigel Warner

Town Clerk

Abingdon-on-Thames Town Council

Tel: 01235 522642

Direct line:  01235 468349

Fax: 01235 533112

 

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Nigel Warner, Abingdon Town Council

Dear Mr Davis

 

Thank you for your request in relation to the above.

 

I am currently considering and progressing your request.  However the
request is a very broad one and in particular I would ask for your
clarification as to what you mean by “details of considerations.” It would
assist if you could advise me in that regard so that I can progress your
request further.

 

In the meantime, I would advise that it is likely that the matters you
refer to in your request in relaiton to the period since April 2012 would
be contained in the various minutes of the Council and its committees and
these are available on the Council’s website [1]www.abingdon.gov.uk .

 

Yours sincerely

 

Nigel Warner

Town Clerk

Abingdon-on-Thames Town Council

Tel: 01235 522642

Fax: 01235 533112

 

The information in this e-mail, together with any attachments, is
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Council are subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and therefore
may be disclosed to other parties under that Act.

 

References

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1. http://www.abingdon.gov.uk/

Dear Nigel Warner,

If it helps clarify and simplify the request (I do not wish it to be overly time consuming) would it be easier to list occasions on which the council has decided to spend money on adjustments to buildings due to disability, or actively decided not to spend money on these adjustments?

Yours sincerely,

James Davis

Dear Nigel Warner,

I believe that, even taking my clarification into account, this request is now well overdue.

Please can I request an internal review of my request.

Yours sincerely,

James Davis

Nigel Warner, Abingdon Town Council

Dear Mr Davis

Thank you for your e-mail.

My apologies for the delay in responding to your original request. Your request will now be subject to an internal review. The timescale for this is 20 working days. However I would anticipate that you will receive a response before then.

Yours sincerely

Nigel Warner
Town Clerk
Abingdon-on-Thames Town Council
Tel: 01235 522642
Fax: 01235 533112

The information in this e-mail, together with any attachments, is confidential. If you have received this message in error you must not print off, copy, use or disclose the contents. The information may be covered by legal and/or professional privilege. Please delete from your system and inform the sender of the error. As an e-mail can be an informal method of communication, the views expressed may be personal to the sender and should not be taken as necessarily representing the views of the Council. As emails are transmitted over a public network the Council cannot accept any responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of this message. It is your responsibility to carry out all necessary virus checks. You should be aware that all emails received and sent by this Council are subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and therefore may be disclosed to other parties under that Act.

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Nigel Warner, Abingdon Town Council

Dear Mr Davis

Further to my previous e-mail and the internal review of your request I regret that I have not yet been able to finalise my response in relation to this matter. However I anticipate that I will be able to give you this response within the next seven days i.e. by 24th November 2016.

My apologies for the continued delay and thank you for your patience in this regard.

Yours sincerely

Nigel Warner
Town Clerk
Abingdon-on-Thames Town Council
Tel: 01235 522642
Fax: 01235 533112

The information in this e-mail, together with any attachments, is confidential. If you have received this message in error you must not print off, copy, use or disclose the contents. The information may be covered by legal and/or professional privilege. Please delete from your system and inform the sender of the error. As an e-mail can be an informal method of communication, the views expressed may be personal to the sender and should not be taken as necessarily representing the views of the Council. As emails are transmitted over a public network the Council cannot accept any responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of this message. It is your responsibility to carry out all necessary virus checks. You should be aware that all emails received and sent by this Council are subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and therefore may be disclosed to other parties under that Act.

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Dear Nigel Warner,

Thanks for your update, I appriciate your response. I'd just like to clarify that at this point both the request itself, and the internal review requested on the 20th of October are now overdue.

Yours sincerely,

James Davis

Nigel Warner, Abingdon Town Council

Dear Mr Davis

Further to my e-mail I had hoped that I would be able to give a response to your request today. However the work involved in finalising my response has proved more substantial than I would have anticipated. I hope now to give a full response on Friday although it is likely that I will need to complete matters over the weekend and e-mail you the response on Monday 28th November.

Yours sincerely

Nigel Warner
Town Clerk
Abingdon-on-Thames Town Council
Tel: 01235 522642
Fax: 01235 533112

The information in this e-mail, together with any attachments, is confidential. If you have received this message in error you must not print off, copy, use or disclose the contents. The information may be covered by legal and/or professional privilege. Please delete from your system and inform the sender of the error. As an e-mail can be an informal method of communication, the views expressed may be personal to the sender and should not be taken as necessarily representing the views of the Council. As emails are transmitted over a public network the Council cannot accept any responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of this message. It is your responsibility to carry out all necessary virus checks. You should be aware that all emails received and sent by this Council are subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and therefore may be disclosed to other parties under that Act.

show quoted sections

Nigel Warner, Abingdon Town Council

Dear Mr Davis
 
Thank you for your request you have made under the Freedom of Information
Act.
 
Your original request in July 2016 stated: “Please could you provide me
with details of considerations by the town council of physical adjustments
to their properties and services so as to not disadvantage disabled
persons. Where adjustments have been found to be reasonable and have been
undertaken, please provide the costs of the adjustment. For example: when
the County Hall Museum was being refurbished from 2010-2013, a lift was
installed to provide access to the basement levels. If available, I would
like this information starting from 1995.”
 
As you know I responded stating that your request  “was a very broad one
and in particular I would ask for your  clarification as to what you mean
by “details of considerations. It would assist if you could advise me in
that regard so that I can progress your request further.”
 
In your response of 23^rd August 2016 you stated: “If it helps clarify and
simplify the request (I do not wish it to be overly time consuming) would
it be easier to list occasions on which the council has decided to spend
money on adjustments to buildings due to disability, or actively decided
not to spend money on these adjustments?”
 
Whilst your clarification was very helpful in terms of making your request
manageable, there has still been a considerable time implication in
putting together a response.  The basic information is of itself
reasonably straightforward. However on taking this request forward I have
reverted to the wording of your original request in relation to buildings
to give relevant background and to explain the process through which the
Council has gone. I will return to this point later.
 
Please note that in drafting what I hope you find to be a full and helpful
response it has been necessary to summarise a great amount of detail which
is to be found in the Council’s various minutes. In doing this it is
inevitable that I have had to make judgements as to what should be
included, so if you have any queries on this matter then please do not
hesitate to contact me.
 
There are three buildings where the Council has considered/ implemented
adjustments to improve access.
 
1. Old Abbey House
 
In January 2007 a disabled access ramp was installed at the Council’s
former offices, the Old Abbey House.  These premises were leased from the
Vale of White Horse District Council and the work was commissioned by that
authority. The contribution made by the Town Council was £10,000.
 
2. Abingdon County Hall Museum
 
The County Hall is a Grade 1 listed building. This has meant that there
have been great challenges in seeking to improve access to the property.
In the early/ mid 2000s the Town Council, together with the Vale of White
Horse District Council, Oxfordshire County Council and a local arts-based
group, APAGE, explored the potential of relocating the Museum together
with the library, to the Old Gaol as part of a new arts centre, the
“preferred option” referred to below.  A significant part of the reasoning
behind this was due to the problems of providing disabled access to the
County Hall. Over the years English Heritage had indicated that they would
object to a lift being installed in this building.
 
Following receipt of a report from the District Council’s consultants,
ABL, it was noted in minutes from 31^st August 2005 that “the Old Gaol
partners’ preferred option is unlikely to be feasible.” The Town Council
re-affirmed its commitment to improve public access to the Museum.  There
was further contact with English Heritage (EH) and it was clear that EH’s
position regarding the possibility of a lift to the County Hall had begun
to shift in favour of allowing sympathetic alterations to improve access
to the building and as a result, in May 2006, the Council approved an
application to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF for a Project Planning Grant
(PPG) to take work forward. At the November 2006 meeting of the County
Hall Museum Management Committee (CHMMC) it was noted that this grant
application had been approved.
 
It should be noted at this stage that the scheme which was being
considered by the Council and for which funding was sought went beyond
access issues and included comprehensive improvements and refurbishment to
a building which had not had any major work on it since 1956. This was
also a feature of the scheme which eventually proceeded.
 
There were three proposals which the Council pursued to improve access to
the building, the first two of which could not proceed due to objections
from English Heritage.
 
(i) Lift tower serving all floors:  The report in relation to the PPG was
considered in June 2007 and included proposals for an external tower lift
from the basement, through to the undercroft, the sessions hall and the
attic floor. The scheme also provided for a disabled WC on the attic
floor. The plans were produced to RIBA (Royal Institute of British
Architects) outline plan of work 2007 Stage C (Concept) and the
recommendation was that these plans be progressed to the next stage, Stage
D (Design Development). The cost for these works was estimated to be
£1,269,710 this including an allowance for professional fees, contingency
and inflation but note that this work was not put out to tender. It was
reported in November 2007 that, following meetings with EH, EH had
indicated that they would object to a lift to the attic floor.
 
(ii) Lift tower not serving attic floor  As a consequence of EH’s
objections the County Hall Museum Management Committee recommended that
the Council should make an application for HLF funding for an external
lift which excluded the attic level but which included access to the other
floors as previously agreed. The scheme also included DDA compliant WCs.
This application was submitted accordingly and approved by HLF in July
2008, part of a two stage grant approval process. The estimated cost of
these works amounted to £1,133,724 this including an allowance for
professional fees, contingency and inflation but note that this work was
not put out to tender.
 
 
The lift tower had been recommended for approval by the EH South East
Regional office and planning permission was applied for in May 2009 on
that basis. However due to the national significance of the building the
matter of the lift tower was considered by the English Heritage Advisory
Committee (EHAC), a national committee. By letter of 23^rd July 2009 EH
advised the District Council (as planning authority) that the “aesthetic
values of this nationally important building would be too severely
affected” by the proposals, which they were therefore recommending that
planning permission should be refused by the District Council.
 
EH’s objection as a statutory consultee and advisor to the Secretary of
State, to which any appeal against refusal of planning permission would be
made, meant that the proposal for the tower lift could not proceed any
further.
 
(iii) Platform lift to basement It was as a result of further negotiations
with EH and HLF that proposals for a platform lift serving the basement of
the Museum were brought forward in September 2009 as an amendment to the
planning application and planning permission and listed building consent
granted on 24^th September 2009. A Stage 2 HLF application then proceeded
which was approved in March 2010. The Council accepted the offer of a
grant from HLF and work commenced on the building in January 2011. The
Museum re-opened in July 2012.
 
The cost of the works in relation to the lift and provision of a disabled
WC in the basement amounted to £324,691. 
 
3. The Guildhall
 
The Guildhall was transferred from the District Council to the Town
Council on 1^st April 2011. As you will be aware the Guildhall consists of
historic buildings joined to a more modern (1966) extension. The Guildhall
is a Grade 2 listed building.
 
(i) Phase 1 From January to April 2012 the Guildhall Development Project,
phase 1, took place. This involved improvements and refurbishments to the
historic buildings and included the refurbishment of the disabled WC
outside the Roysse Room lobby.
 
In 2012 the Town Council commenced phase 2 of the Project based on the
modern (1966) extension to the Guildhall i.e. the Abbey Hall and the
reception/ atrium area. In detailing the considerations here I have
identified three different proposals although in reality the proposals
were developed over the course of time as work progressed, are all linked
and build on the work previously undertaken.
 
(ii) Phase 2 Project including application to HLF Initial plans were
approved by the Council in July 2013.  In October 2013 the Council agreed
to make an application for HLF funding to take matters forward, the plans
being at RIBA 2013 plan of work level 3 (Developed Design) . A major part
of the proposals included a cinema facility within the Guildhall,
including a new auditorium build at the back of the Guildhall, i.e. on its
south face. The plans also included a new entrance atrium from the north
side (Abbey Close entrance) which successfully addressed the existing
access issues between the modern and historic buildings by installing an
internal lift within the 60's building central atrium area. The plans
allowed users and staff to access both the old and the modern buildings
directly from street level rather than having to climb steps or use the
60's ramp. It also neatly connected the two buildings in a clear
and rational manner by including a corridor linking the historic building,
through the current boiler room, to the modern building, removing any
requirement for the existing and outdated stair lifts. There was also
provision for updating the existing WC's in line with current disability
guidance.
 
Unfortunately in late March 2014 the application for HLF funding was not
approved and consequently there was a review of the plans for the
development.
 
(iii) Revised phase 2 project With HLF funding not available there was a
review of the project which resulted in revised plans being approved by
the Council in June 2014. These plans were developed to RIBA 2013 plan of
work level 3 (Developed Design).The plans included a new external lift
adjacent to the existing modern building front entrance steps which could
take users directly to all the floor levels within the historic buildings
as well as the existing raised entrance foyer level although it would have
been necessary if the design had been developed further to overcome a
number of internal steps. An additional direct level access was also
incorporated off the front elevation into the existing modern building
lower level allowing users to gain access to the Abbey Hall via the
existing lift core at the rear north east corner of the building. The
proposal would have improved the general access within and between the two
buildings if not, using the phrase from the Council’s architects, as
elegantly as the HLF Bid proposals. The proposed disability upgrades to
the existing WC's were also included within this proposal.
 
As stated above, a major part of both the above schemes was the provision
of a cinema facility at the Guildhall and consequently the Council sought
an external partner in the form of a cinema operator, to provide capital
for the project and to work with in operating the planned facility.
Following a procurement process the tenders received from operators were
considered in June 2015 but the scheme was not progressed on cost and
future building ownership grounds.
 
(iv) Project from June 2015
 
In June 2015 the Council instructed its architects to work on an
alternative proposal to include improvements to the Abbey Hall, including
entry at street level to the modern part of the building and improved
access but not including the new auditorium planned for the cinema under
the previous scheme. It was noted that the previous plans were designed in
a modular manner and that the rescoped project would be building on and
represented a development of the work already undertaken. The architects
were therefore asked to ensure that any amended designs, in so far as is
possible, would not impede the Council’s ability to implement its previous
plans should funding or other opportunities arise in the future.
 
This work culminated in the current scheme and includes two main
initiatives to improve access between the historic and the modern
building. A new through route is proposed to link the historic and the
modern parts of the building at street level. This link is from the area
outside Roysse Room along an open link corridor to the lobby area in the
modern part of the building where the current main WC's are located.
Wheelchair users can then negotiate the level difference via a modern
platform lift which will also convey users up to the current central
entrance level and Abbey Hall level, with the ability to extend the lift
up to the second floor at a future time if required. These proposals, 
along with the planned opening up of the south facing elevation to Abbey
Close to form a new main public entrance and café area is designed to
create a much improved and accessible building for all to use.  The scheme
provides for refurbishment of the disabled WC adjacent to the Abbey Hall
and the provision of a new disabled/ family WC in the new café area. The
existing lift in the south east corner of the modern building is retained
and refurbished.
 
Following approval of these plans, planning permission and listed building
consent was granted on 27^th May 2016. This scheme went out to tender in
October 2016 and tenders are currently being considered. The Council will
be considering the results of this process in December 2016/ January 2017.
 
The plans have been discussed with the Vale Disability Access Group.
 
As the Project is currently out to tender the various cost estimates and
tender sums in relation to this project are commercially sensitive and so
at present I am unable to release these figures to you.
 
 
Internal review: I apologise that dealing with this request has taken a
lot longer than I would have originally anticipated.  Listing the times
when the Council has decided to spend money, or actively decided not to
spend money, would have been straightforward enough. However my wish to
provide context and background made this a much more time consuming matter
that it would otherwise have been. The reasons for providing this context
and background were valid ones but in dealing with a similar request in
the future I would ensure that you were made aware of the reasons for the
delay and if appropriate, and if that was your wish, the basic information
requested would be forwarded within the statutory timescales, with any
additional information to follow.
 
 
As I stated earlier in this e-mail, in drafting this response it has been
necessary to summarise a great amount of detail which is to be found in
the Council’s various minutes. In doing this it is inevitable that I have
had to make judgements as to what should be included, so I would
re-iterate that if you have any queries on this matter then please do not
hesitate to contact me.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Nigel Warner
Town Clerk
Abingdon-on-Thames Town Council
Tel: 01235 522642
Fax: 01235 533112
 
 
The information in this e-mail, together with any attachments, is
confidential. If you have received this message in error you must not
print off, copy, use or disclose the contents. The information may be
covered by legal and/or professional privilege. Please delete from your
system and inform the sender of the error. As an e-mail can be an informal
method of communication, the views expressed may be personal to the sender
and should not be taken as necessarily representing the views of the
Council. As emails are transmitted over a public network the Council
cannot accept any responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of this
message. It is your responsibility to carry out all necessary virus
checks. You should be aware that all emails received and sent by this
Council are subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and therefore
may be disclosed to other parties under that Act.
 
 
 
 

Dear Nigel Warner,

Thank you for your response, and the thoroughness of the detail provided. It's precisely the information that I was looking for.

Yours sincerely,

James Davis

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