Man's threat of legal action over centre

A disabled user of Whitcliffe Mount Sports Centre has threatened legal action against Kirklees Council after it announced the facility's closure date.

Thursday, 31st March 2016, 7:00 am
Whitcliffe Mount Sports Centre.

Bowler Kenneth Shaw, who has severe arthritis, is challenging the council’s decision to shut the centre on May 20.

He is claiming the move would contradict its statutory duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments to facilities for disabled service users.

Kirklees Council has suggested that the newly built Huddersfield Leisure Centre is a suitable alternative for Mr Shaw – but the closest disabled parking space there is 60 metres from the entrance, he said.

Mr Shaw said: “At Whitcliffe Mount, the parking is very good, the showers are excellent, the staff are excellent.

“I’ve been to other sites in Kirklees but the other facilities are absolutely diabolical.

“At the new sports centre in Huddersfield, parking is 60 metres away. And there are no disabled lockers in the changing rooms.”

Mr Shaw, from Huddersfield, uses two sticks for his severe arthritis, and has scar tissue on both his legs following an accident in 1971.

He said: “They won’t operate because it might not work at all, the doctor said. The best thing I can do is go to the centre three times a week.

“When I get up off the floor I need help. At Whitcliffe Mount they accommodate me.”

A strongly-fought campaign to keep the sports centre open by some of its users was thwarted last December after Kirklees Council Cabinet members passed long-standing plans to knock down the attached Whitcliffe Mount School and re-develop it.

The Local Government Ombudsman had ruled prior to this that an original decision to carry out the plans, made in December 2013, had to be re-considered because there was no public consultation.

The Turnsteads Avenue school is on a government hit list for those in dire need of re-development.

Council documents state how it is outdated and was not designed with the needs of disabled people in mind.

Kirklees Council confirmed that Mr Shaw previously sent them a pre-action protocol letter threatening judicial review proceedings, which the council responded to.

Mr Shaw’s solicitors have since said they will not be pursuing this, a council spokesman said.

However they have sent another one on his behalf threatening action through the Equality Act. The council is currently putting together its response.

Spen MP Jo Cox has organised a meeting at the centre on April 15 to discuss the alternative facilities users have been offered – but it is not intended to focus on the council’s decision to close the centre.