Centre’s decision is a step too far

Peter Joyce and partnerJacqueline Dunning outside the Mill House Centre.
Peter Joyce and partnerJacqueline Dunning outside the Mill House Centre.

A MAN has accused council chiefs of “bad planning” after his disabled partner was unable to get into a swimming pool after portable steps were removed.

Jacqueline Dunning, who has no movement down her left hand side following life-saving cancer treatment, had been regularly swimming at Mill House Leisure Centre, in Raby Road, Hartlepool, on Friday evenings with her partner Peter Joyce, in a bid to keep fit and for enjoyment.

Jacqueline, 59, managed to get into the water by using a set of removable steps that were placed in the water at the edge of the pool.

The pool was shut over the Christmas period for a revamp, and when the couple returned last week after it re-opned they were shocked to discover that the steps were roped off on the poolside and were no longer being used, meaning Jacqueline could not get into the water.

Peter and Jacqueline complained to Mill House staff and were told that the steps had been causing damage to the pool so they were no longer being used.

The management said there was a new set of steps on order which wouldn’t be ready until April, but said there was a hoist that Jacqueline could use to get in and out of the pool.

Peter, of Rossmere Way, said that Jacqueline was too embarrassed to use the hoist and they chose to leave.

Today Peter, 64, branded the situation “ridiculous” and said the Hartlepool Borough Council-run swimming baths had neglected the needs of disabled people in the refurbishment.

“It’s bad planning basically,” he said.

“Why didn’t they look at the overall picture and include disabled people in that picture?

“Surely if you’re revamping the pool and the disabled steps are causing damage to it, then you’d sort some new ones out so that you didn’t exclude disabled people who have every right to be going swimming.

“The manager said Jacqueline could have used a hoist to get into the pool, but it’s already hard enough for disabled people having people looking at them, without the added embarrassment of being lifted in and out of a pool by a hoist.”

He added: “It just seems incredible that they could go through the whole planning process without planning this in. Why should the pool be ready to use for able-bodied people but not disabled people?”

A council spokesman said: “We have a hoist which is operated by staff to help people with disabilities to get in and out of the pool, and this is used regularly by pool users.

“The portable steps, which we have had for about two years, caused damage to the pool side and tiles when they were lifted in and out of the water.

“Following the recent investment at the pool we are anxious to protect the pool so are exploring modifying the steps or purchasing new ones.

“In the meantime, people with disabilities have the option of using the hoist to access the pool.”