A LOCAL authority will take enforcement action on a retailer if it does not provide disabled access at one of its high-end branches by January.

The Northern Echo understands that Darlington Borough Council will take enforcement action if Sports Direct ignores a second request to install a disabled lift at Flannels.

A veteran councillor has warned a failure to do so would “make a mockery” of local authority planning regulations.

Last night, Darlington Councillor Gerald Lee made the comments as disability activists called for action against the firm.

It was, earlier this year, revealed that Sports Direct had requested to scrap plans to improve disabled access in an application to Darlington Borough Council.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

The store only has stepped-access Picture: JIM SCOTT

The application, to omit the requirement of a platform lift at its step-only entrance, was refused after the firm suggested disabled customers must “make themselves known” to staff, before being escorted through a busy stock room.

After its refusal, the local authority said it had received a “written undertaking” from Sports Direct that it would install the lift by the end of October.

But after failing to meet the deadline, the local authority confirmed it had reached a new agreement to have the work carried out by the end of January to "minimise disruption during the Christmas trading period."

However, disabled Darlington resident Nicholas Nash, said enforcement action should have been taken when the retailer failed to carry out the work in October.

The 24-year-old said: “Darlington Council should not have allowed an extension of the work, they would have got more customers, both mainstream and disabled if it had been done sooner.

“It should have been shut down – the store has been open a long time and it should have opened with disabled access.

“There should not be people in the stock room, the only people in the stock room should be the staff.”

Commenting, Councillor Gerald Lee of the Heighington and Coniscliffe Ward, said enforcement action demonstrated the “power of the local authority.”

He said: “It is welcome news.

"That’s the power of the local authority, and these are the kind of things that without enforcement, without planning conditions just makes a mockery of the planning protocol.

“We must enforce planning conditions and if these people don’t put in, then enforcement action will take place.”

  • The Northern Echo contacted Sports Direct, but did noreceiveve a response.