Chester becomes first British city to claim top spot in European Commission’s Access City Awards
29 November 2016Chester has become the first British city to win the coveted European Access City Award for its commitment to ensuring that the historic city continues to become more accessible for all.
The Access City Awards, organised by the European Commission, not only recognises cities for their efforts to make it easier for disabled and older people to gain access to public areas, but highlights those who have clear plans for further improvements.
A European Jury composed of experts in accessibility, the European Disability Forum, the Age Platform Europe and the European Commission heard detail on a number of innovative improvement programmes already taking place within the city, as well as long-term commitments, before making their decision.
Lord Mayor of Chester, Councillor Angela Claydon, who received the award on behalf of Cheshire West and Chester Council, alongside Chief Executive Gerald Meehan, said: “Seven strong cities were shortlisted to receive the title this year – it’s been a nail-biting few hours! I’m incredibly proud at the fact that Chester is the very first British city to ever win the awards and delighted at our success.
“This is great for our borough’s disabled community – many of whom live or visit Chester regularly. Improved accessibility brings not only reassurance and the necessary support to those who struggle with mobility issues, but lasting economic and social benefits to the city and the borough and we will continue to place accessibility at the heart of everything we deliver.
“We appreciate that Chester’s not the finished article and there is plenty of room for improvement but we are absolutely committed to working with disabled organisations to ensure that the whole of the borough is as accessible to all as it can be.
“This is a process that, whilst we know will take time, we have clear and deliverable plans to make happen. We want to learn from previous winners about how we can now build upon this in the coming years.”
Planned additional provision of Changing Places toilets - which benefit the most profoundly disabled people living and visiting the city – at key locations across the city will see the number available double over the coming years and the recently renovated Grosvenor Park has seen significant accessibly improvements for all incorporated into its design.
All Hackney taxis operating within the city are fully accessible, all buses have fold out ramp and designated wheelchair spaces and 170 accessible parking bays are available in Council car parks. A successful Shopmobility scheme sees 3,000 annual bookings, with Ability Angels available to support visitors to complete their shopping.
Cheshire West and Chester Council has worked closely with local and regional disabled organisations for a number of years, listening to their views and ensuring that they are involved in the design of major new developments – most recently large-scale projects including Storyhouse, the new Chester bus interchange, the Northgate scheme and Frodsham Street works.