Sunday, 7 February 2016

Council Meeting - Salem Chapel, the Fire Service and Disabled Access

This isn't a brilliant picture of Salem Chapel roof, but I think the damage can be seen well enough.
The problem is - what to do about it?
Up until recently, there was a group from the congregation running the chapel - I have no idea if the congregation still meets there, though. The only activity I've seen around the chapel recently is the Railway Club with their model of Hay Station, in the oldest part of the building which was originally the school room and has more recently been used as an art gallery.
The thing is - nobody knows who owns the building. It was rebuilt in 1878 - the original chapel on the site was built in 1650, and was one of the oldest Baptist chapels in Wales. But who did it? The Baptist Union doesn't own the building. Mari Fforde, of the History Group, has been trying to track down the owners, and discovered that there was paperwork relating to the trustees at the Nat West bank up until 2009, but after that the paperwork disappeared. She's working with the Cheesemarket group CiC, which is looking round for a new project now that the Cheesemarket is doing well. They want to re-open the chapel as a community space - but to repair the roof, and to do anything else with the building, they need to find out who the owners are first.
There was nothing much the councillors could do apart from sharing the information.

However, on 29th February, a group of councillors are going down to the fire station to talk about the local fire service, and find out about the equipment held at the fire station. Of particular importance is the fire service boat, which is used for call outs on the Wye. The Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service are thinking of re-locating the boat to Brecon. Gareth Ratcliffe was quite worried about this possibility, partly because there is a need for the boat close to the Wye in Hay (and also over the border into Herefordshire) and partly because the future of Hay fire station may be in doubt if it loses the specialised service. The firemen who use the boat are specially trained, and in emergencies can be deployed across the UK.

While maintenance of the Council Chambers was being discussed, the subject of disabled access to council meetings was brought up. Everybody has a right to attend council meetings, but at present it is impossible for a wheelchair user to get up to the first floor where the meetings are held.
So - why aren't the Council using the ground floor room, presently used by the Registrar. This shouldn't be a problem as far as confidentiality is concerned - as long as the filing cabinets are locked, and the computer will be password protected anyway. On the plans for the new school building that hasn't been built yet, the registrar was supposed to share an office with the town clerk.
That would help in some cases - Peter Lloyd had great difficulty getting up the stairs when he was a councillor in the year or so before he died, for instance, and at that time there was talk of installing a stair lift.
Another possibility would be, if a wheelchair user made it known they wanted to attend, the meeting could be held at the school, which is a lot easier to get into. Even if the meetings were held downstairs, there are still steps at the front door. Fiona Howard pointed out the stupidity of having a disabled access toilet on the first floor, where no disabled person could get to it - a box ticking exercise by Powys County Council - and she suggested that the Council should insist on having a stair lift installed at the County Council's expense, before they hand over the building to local control.

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