Disabled people in Camden deserve better

Thursday, 30th September 2021

Mik Scarlet

Mik Scarlet outside Camden’s stables market in Chalk Farm Road

• I WOULD like to thank the CNJ for running the story (‘Disabled people are being ignored,’ says activist and wheelchair user, September 23) and for highlighting the concerns for disabled people around the colourful road crossings currently being rolled out.

But I must challenge the responses in the article from LabTech, the owners of Camden Market, and Camden Council. The claim that the cobbles within Camden Market all have listed status is not entirely correct.

The only area of the market listed as one-star by Historic England is the Horse Hospital, and a one-metre strip of cobbles around the building plus the steep ramp to the side.

This is stated on Historic England’s website at: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1258100.

All other areas of the market have, at most, a Grade II status which legally means that they are not exempt from making changes around safe access. This type of listed status just requires the changes to be in keeping with the listed areas.

I advised the market as long ago as 2016 of this, and even helped design a safe route through the market where an accessible path could be created.

As at least a third of the cobbles were actually laid as recently as 2013, this would have been an easy and cost effective solution that would have opened much of the market up to disabled visitors while in no way damaging the heritage features.

Sadly this has yet to be implemented.

The council’s response was the most saddening. To claim they are powerless to enforce the legal requirement for safe access for disabled people is not accurate.

A site this important, attracting such large numbers of visitors, is required to be safe for all and so access is essential.

Just because a company employs a freelance building control consultant on a project there is a legal requirement to be as accessible as possible.

With Historic England giving clear guidance on how to create access provision within cobbled areas, there is no excuse either for LabTech or the council’s planning department.

Disabled people in Camden, whether residents or visitors, deserve better and it is time that businesses and our elected council took up the challenge and worked together, with local disabled people, to not only make Camden more disabled friendly but to make the borough a shining light of accessibility that the rest of London and the country could follow.

It’s time to stop the excuses and to begin a real commitment to making improvement. As it currently stands, it is true that I have never felt as disabled as I do living in Camden.

This isn’t just about my own wanting to enjoy all that Camden has to offer myself, but to know that future generations will not face the discrimination that many disabled people face daily in our borough.

Let’s make that change.

Broadcaster, Columnist, & Actor

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