"Discriminatory" snooker club plans attacked by disability campaigners (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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"Discriminatory" snooker club plans attacked by disability campaigners in Darlington
A SNOOKER club has been accused of discrimination after its members said they were happy not to make their new venue accessible to the disabled.
Proposals to move The Mechanics Institute Snooker Club from Skinnergate in Darlington to a property in Bondgate met an outcry from disability campaigners at a meeting of the town’s planning committee yesterday (Wednesday, October 23).
The move – necessary because the club’s current premises are to be turned into a bar and nightclub – will be to a first floor venue that is currently inaccessible to wheelchair users and those with mobility problems.
Gordon Pybus, representing Darlington Association on Disability (DAD), objected to the plans and said the club would be excluding the disabled, not only from the venue, but from the sport if they did not make the building accessible.
Proposals state that the installation of a lift would have substantial cost implications and require a remodelling of the building which could disturb surrounding businesses.
Prism Planning’s Steve Barker, representing the club, said the applicant was also reluctant to install a lift because of its size.
He said: “The applicant does not want to install a lift because it will reduce available accommodation.
“They are in the property at the moment with two tables and two inches of space, it is just not compatible.”
He said current members of the club were happy with the proposals and suggested disabled people were unlikely to become members because they may not be able to play on regularly sized tables.
Mr Pybus said: “I play snooker often and there is no difference in the tables I use.
“It’s not about access to premises, it is about access to facilities and services.
“If this gets passed and I apply to be a member, I’d be interested to see what grounds they would turn me down.
“Members are prepared to say they are not happy to accept disabled people, which is discriminatory.
“If this was about race or homophobia, there would be hell on.”
The planning committee decided to defer their decision to await engineering reports and estimates of costs, with planning officer Dave Coates saying it would be an “emotive and difficult” decision to make.
A refusal could see delays to the Skinnergate development, with the club reluctant to give up their lease without a permanent venue.
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