- Meeting of Communities and Equalities Scrutiny Committee, Thursday, 3rd September, 2020 2.00 pm (Item 32.)
This will be an oral report.
The Director of City Centre Growth and Infrastructure informed the Committee that a number of permanent options had been considered to make the Peterloo Memorial fully accessible to all disabled people, including a lift, a bridge and different designs of ramp. She advised Members that these options had been assessed by the Design Team, working with the access campaign group, but none of the options had proved viable, due to the constraints of the site and the geometry of the Memorial. She reported that discussions were now taking place about exploring a temporary ramp solution.
The Executive Member for Skills, Culture and Leisure acknowledged that mistakes had been made which had resulted in the Memorial not being fully accessible. He reported that the Council had spent 12 months working to try to find a permanent solution, in consultation with the access campaign group, but had not been able to find one. He advised the Committee that a temporary ramp was now being considered which could be in place around the date of the anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre every year. He informed the Committee that the next steps were to communicate further with the access campaign group and hold a public meeting to discuss the options that had been explored, why they were not feasible and the proposals for a temporary ramp. He advised Members that the Memorial had not been used for protests or as a speakers’ corner, as had been envisaged, as events like that tended to take place in Albert Square, St Peters Square or Piccadilly Gardens and that very few people were climbing onto the Memorial. He reported that lessons had been learnt, that considerations about accessibility had been central in the design process for the Memorial to the victims of the Manchester Arena terrorist attack from the start and that this was the approach that would be taken for any future monuments.
The Chair reiterated the Committee’s commitment to the Memorial being accessible to all people. He stated that the Committee had previously requested that the options for making the Memorial accessible be reviewed, that planning processes being reviewed to ensure that accessibility issues were identified and addressed at an earlier stage and that a public meeting take place, with an independent chair, so that interested parties could explore the options that had been put forward. He reported that the public meeting had not yet taken place, noting the challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic, but that his view was that this meeting should now be arranged. He advised that consideration would need to be given to holding this meeting virtually.
The Ward Councillor for Deansgate highlighted that Ward Councillors had raised the issue of accessibility at an earlier stage in the process; however, she acknowledged that lessons had since been learnt. She advised Members that accessibility needed to be embedded in the planning process more widely, not just for monuments. She reported that the Memorial had been used for a protest on the anniversary of the Massacre. A Member commented that a number of protest groups within the city had decided not to use the Memorial for protests at present in solidarity with disabled people who were not able to use it.
The Ward Councillor for Deansgate suggested that the Committee request a report on what options had been considered, what the obstacles were, who had been consulted and any alternative views so that officers’ conclusions could be interrogated.
The Chair proposed that officers proceed with the rest of the agreed process, including the public meeting, and that the Committee then receive a report at a future meeting, where Members could review what had taken place and hear the views of those involved, including the accessibility campaigners. He expressed thanks to the groups involved for their co-operation in working with the Council to try to find a solution.
The Executive Member for Skills, Culture and Leisure offered to circulate a note to Members outlining the work that had taken place to look for a solution, to which the Chair agreed. He acknowledged the Ward Councillor’s comment about a protest having taken place on the Memorial on the anniversary of the Massacre and highlighted the proposal to put a temporary ramp in place around this date.
In response to a question from a Member on timescales for the rest of the process, the Chair advised that he would speak to the Executive Member for Skills, Culture and Leisure and other stakeholders about when the public meeting could take place and stated that his view was that it should take place as soon as was feasible. He advised that he would feed back to the disability access campaigners what had been discussed at this meeting. He also requested a short report to the Committee’s October or November meeting outlining progress made since today’s meeting.
1. To ask the Executive Member for Skills, Culture and Leisure to circulate a note to Members which outlines the work that has taken place to find a solution to the accessibility issues relating to the Memorial.
2. To request a short report to the Committee’s October or November meeting on the progress made since this meeting.