Community council demands safety barrier removal

Steve Sonclair at the selkirk skips.
Steve Sonclair at the selkirk skips.
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A SAFETY barrier installed in February at the Selkirk Community Recycling Centre has contravened more sections of equality legislation than it has complied with, writes Andrew Keddie.

That is the view of the town’s community council which this week called for the structure, erected by Scottish Borders Council in February, to be “removed forthwith”.

In April, we reported how wheelchair-bound resident Steve Sinclair was unable to deposit rubbish in the skips because the new fence is well above the height of his head.

Since then the community council and the three Selkirkshire councillors on SBC have been pressing the local authority to lower or remove the high cordon altogether.

Last month, SBC’s waste manager Ross Sharp-Dent, in a letter to community council vice-chairman Dr Lindsay Neil, said an assessment of the site had taken place following an incident last October, when someone was spotted falling into a skip while throwing in a bag of garden waste. The member of the public was not injured in the incident, nor indeed was it reported to the centre’s supervisor.

Mr Sharp-Dent conceded: “It was recognised the introduction of a barrier would present difficulties for some disabled users ... we considered our duties in relation to the Equalities Act and concluded [this was] the safest option for all users.”

Councillor Vicky Davidson said she and fellow Selkirkshire councillor Carolyn Riddell-Carre had since attended a meeting of SBC’s waste advisory group.

“We made strong representations and received the same litany of legislation and best practice guidelines that led to it being installed,” she said.

“One suggestion has been put forward to install rollers on the barriers to help people slide items up and over, reducing the strain of lifting and keeping SBC on the right side of the safety guidelines. We agreed this should be trialled to see if that helps”, she said.

But retired GP Dr Neil retorted: “The rollers which are now in place actually make matters worse in that you have to lift stuff up and push it forwards which is a worse potential strain on a back than the danger of lifting alone.

“SBC has unwittingly contravened more sections of the Equalities Act than if it had done nothing ... its position is indefensible. It would be a simple matter to draft a notice exonerating SBC from any liability for people dumping stuff once the barrier has been removed.

“Why am I, an unpaid retired doctor acting in the interests of public safety, having to point out the obvious to the salaried experts at SBC?”

On Monday, the community council agreed to write to Mr Sharp-Dent, reminding him the purpose of the Equality Act was to “reduce socio-economic inequalities”.

Dr Neil continued: “The construction of the barrier has introduced an inequality for disabled people where previously none existed in that, since it was erected, they can barely use the site.

“Our main concern is the barrier was erected without consulting relevant medical opinion. Indeed, it is our view that the advisory process has proven to be dangerously inept ... as such barriers create a health hazard.”