Tuesday 12th August 2003
Reading Evening Post
DISABLED shoppers have claimed round one in a battle to prevent the relocation of The Oracle centre’s Shopmobility facility.
Hammerson, the company that owns The Oracle, wants to move the Shopmobility office, which offers scooters to disabled people doing their shopping.
However, its plan faltered at a meeting of Reading Borough Council’s planning committee on Wednesday after committee members deferred making a decision on the proposal.
Shopmobility is based next to the Holy Brook car park, but Hammerson wants to move it to new premises in Yield Hall Place, which protesters say is wholly inappropriate as it will be too cramped and difficult for shoppers to find.
The current unit could then be used for the Lilliput Wood crèche, which itself could make way for a bar.
Diane Goodlock, access officer for Reading and Wokingham Multiple Sclerosis Society, criticised the idea. She said: “At the moment it is situated so disabled people can get out of their cars and get into a scooter. So to move it is a ridiculous proposal.
“Disabled people would be pushed out of the town at a time when so many choose to shop here above towns like Newbury and Oxford.”
The committee decided to defer making a decision until they could get more details on the planning proposals.
However, councillors suggested they wouldn’t be happy with a move unless the centre could prove it would benefit Shopmobility, which helps more than 2,500 shoppers.
Councillor Tony Page said he had got a good response to the service as it stands but that concern had been expressed about the new proposal.
And Sarah Griffin, councillor and vice chair of the Disabled Access Forum, said it was a very difficult planning issue to resolve. She said: “How do you identify the average disabled person or predict how much inconvenience or suffering a change will cause?”
Benedict Hall, asset manager at Hammerson, says he is willing to resolve
the problem. He said: “The next step is to meet the council to resolve
these issues in order to achieve the improvements.”
Copyright © 2003, Surrey & Berkshire Newspapers Limited