PEOPLE with disabilities in the Thomastown area

  • April 17, 2009
  • Bruce Bromley

PEOPLE with disabilities in the Thomastown area have been dealt a blow with the news that An Bord Pleanala has refused to allow Bank of Ireland to build a disabled access ramp outside its Thomastown branch.

That leaves people with mobility issues and those in wheelchairs with the nearly-impossible task of navigating at least two steps to get from the footpath into the building.

The bank, which is located on Market Street in Thomastown, first applied to Kilkenny County Council for permission to build the ramp in December 2007, but was denied because the Council argued that a ramp would leave the footpath in front of the bank too narrow and also because the bank did not own the land it planned to build the ramp on.

The Governor of the Bank of Ireland appealed the decision to An Bord Pleanala in September 2008 and permission was refused at the end of March this year. The planning authority upheld the council’s decision on the reasons for its refusal.

Kilkenny County Counc-illor for Thomastown, Michael O’Brien (Lab) said the decision to refuse permission for the ramp and thus, effectively excluding people with mobility issues from entering the bank was “beyond belief”.

“I think it’s absolutely incredible,” Cllr O’Brien said. “Some of the decisions of the planning authority are just out of this world. I’m not even sure if the adjudicators who make these decisions live in this world.

“In this day and age, it’s all people can do to try and comply with regulations and to try and adapt buildings which were built more than 100 years ago to suit people in the 21st century – such as those in wheechairs. Public interest should always come first.

“The bank, which has frontage on to both Market and Marsh’s Streets, had hoped to build a 5.6m long ramp which would be 1.2m wide, a new stainless steel handrail, limestone kerbing and make minor alterations to the front of the building on Market Street to accommodate wheelchair access.

An Bord Pleanala’s refusal report said the proposed ramp would reduce the width of the public footpath from 2.55m to 1.3m in front of the bank, which would create a safety hazard.

“The proposed development would give rise to obstrucion for the general public and particularly for persons with mobility impairment and the visually impaired,” it said.

It also stated that the bank did not have “sufficient legal interest” in the land to carry out the works and did not have the approval of the landowner.