Council ‘working with legal advisors’ on public realm scheme judgement

Joanna Toner pictured outside the High Court in Belfast. Pic by Michael Cooper
Joanna Toner pictured outside the High Court in Belfast. Pic by Michael Cooper

Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council has said it is “continuing to work with its legal advisors” regarding what action it might take to address safety concerns about kerb heights in an area of Lisburn city centre.

The £5 million public realm scheme at Market Square/Bow Street, which was only completed in October 2015, may have to be amended after a High Court judge upheld a blind Lisburn woman’s legal challenge that the 30mm high kerbs used in the project are too low and pose a serious safety risk as guide dogs and long cane users may fail to detect the difference in surface levels.

Delivering his judgement on Joanna Toner’s legal challenge on May 12, Mr Justice Maguire said: “There is clear evidence that the blind or partially sighted as a group of disabled people were likely to be affected by the way the scheme was designed and built.”

His ruling does not mean the kerbs at Market Square must be replaced, but the council is expected to review the project and ensure it is subjected to a full equality impact assessment.

Since the judgement, the local authority has declined to say whether or not it plans to rip up parts of the public realm scheme in order to replace the low kerbs with new ones that meet the recommended minimum height of at least 60mm.

However, the High Court ruling was discussed by councillors ‘in committee’ at their monthly meeting earlier this week.

Asked for an update on the issue, a council spokesperson said: “The Judicial Review outcome was discussed at the meeting of full council on Tuesday 23rd May and the council will continue to work with its legal advisors to take necessary actions regarding the judgment. The council cannot comment any further at this point.”

Mrs Toner has said it would be “very difficult for the council to do anything other than make an amendment to the scheme.”

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