Fair Access to Colchester got involved with the town centre proposals officially in June 2011, although members had been raising concerns before this time. We began by requesting a meeting with the Town Planning Manager which was held on the 23 June. At this meeting we discussed the changes in depth to find out exactly what was happening, as we’d heard many rumours. We spent a long time going over the impact it would have on people with disabilities or mobility issues, and gave extensive feedback and suggestions on the topic.
We were informed the Town Planning Manager was not making the decision, and he would pass our suggestions and concerns onto the people that were, and would get a response back to us as soon as possible.
This was the beginning of nine months of poor communication, slow responses or no answers at all, misinformation, a fallacious consultation and an appalling attitude towards the disabled and older people living in Colchester.
We never received any response from that initial meeting, despite many more meetings with the council happening.
On the 4th August 2011 we requested a copy of the Equality Impact Assessment that had been carried out along with the results of the consultation. We felt this was very basic information that should have already been publically available. This is what happened afterwards:
- On the 14th August we requested the information again.
- On the 23rd August we requested the information from the head of the department.
- On the 25th August we put in a Freedom of Information request.
- On the 31st August we put in a complaint. We then had to put in a complaint that the complaint was not responded to.
- On the 5th September we finally had a response to say we would get an answer in three weeks time.
- On the 6th September the Head of Department responded to say the Town Planning Manager would be touch soon.
- On the 7th September two members of Fair Access to Colchester gave a speech to cabinet about the impact the proposals would have, and the issues we’d had getting basic information. As a result of this I’m told a meeting will be held with the Head of Department.
- On the 13th September we have to chase to find out when this meeting will be.
- On the 16th September a meeting is offered.
- On the 20th September the meeting is held and the Equality Impact Assessment is given to us.
It only took 48 days. The full results of the consultation were never given to us, despite a freedom of information request. The Equality Impact Assessment is a few pages long and does not discuss any objections to the proposals and states that the changes will not directly or indirectly discriminate against disabled people.
We’ve had both Colchester Borough Council and Essex County Council pass responsibility back and forth.
We’ve met with various councillors, portfolio holders, Highways representatives and council officers. We’ve put forward many positive alternative suggestions, rather than simply state our opposition to the changes. It took 116 days for us to receive a response to our proposals, and what was received was poor.
We’ve been mislead, ignored and treated badly.
Fair Access to Colchester has not sat back and simply said no. We have explained over and over our reasons and more importantly offered workable solutions.
We will keep fighting!
Here are some newspaper articles from this time from the Colchester Gazette.
Find out what happened in 2012 here.