Book a free consultation today with our Changing Places team
Over the last decade, there has been a growing movement to help increase the number of accessible parks and open spaces in the UK. From upgrading paths to make them more suitable for wheelchair users, to installing sensory equipment in playgrounds, we’ve seen positive changes to help meet the needs of all visitors.
However, one area that still requires improvement is accessible toilets. Currently there are 128 parks and open spaces in the UK that have a registered Changing Places. That number has increased considerably since last year, thanks to the £30m Changing Places fund available to local authorities. An increase in Changing Places provision needs to be applauded, but if you take a look at how many parks there are in the UK, that number is actually a drop in an ocean.
As a supporter of the Changing Places campaign, we think more needs to be done. Working with local authorities, there are solutions available that can make significant change, utilising existing funding options to help accessible parks and open spaces become commonplace.
This blog looks into the current accessibility challenges that visitors face, how government funding can help accelerate change and how Innova can support local authorities to make the most of the funding available before the 2024 deadline.
Parks and open spaces play a crucial role in our communities. They provide a retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life, helping with social interaction, relaxation and exercise. Getting outside and experiencing the great outdoors has huge health benefits, both physically and mentally. That’s why our national parks attract more than 100 million visitors a year. However, for individuals with disabilities, enjoying these spaces can often be a challenge due to limited accessibility.
When it comes to accessible toilets, the problem is clear to see. According to the Changing Places Consortium, there are 128 parks and open spaces that have a registered Changing Places facility. Sounds like a lot right? Well, if you consider that in the UK alone, there are 27,000 public parks and green spaces. What we see here is a real case of disability inequity. You have nearly 300 designated country parks in the UK and 15 national parks, yet the infrastructure to enable those with complex disabilities to access those areas is often lacking.
That’s why the survey conducted by The Research Institute for Disabled Consumers in 2021 showed such a huge demand for more accessible parks and outdoor spaces. Out of 1,204 participants, featuring current Changing Places users, carers and future users, a staggering 63.3% said parks and open spaces were the locations where they most wanted to see more Changing Places toilets.
Interestingly, those figures played a key role in helping form how the government allocated its £30m funding for Changing Places toilets, with local authorities receiving funding depending on how great their need was for accessible toileting.
With the majority of country parks, parks and other green spaces owned and managed by local authorities, what can be done to increase Changing Places provision?
The 30m DLUHC Changing Places funding programme has enabled hundreds of local authorities to access much-needed funding to invest in accessible facilities. However, with a deadline of the 31st March 2024 to ensure work has begun on installing those facilities, local authorities face a race against time to get their projects moving.
To ensure the Changing Places funding deadline is met, we’ve put together a support plan to prevent delays or rising costs. As an approved Changing Places supplier, we take the pressure off for local authorities by managing the design, installation and registration of their funded Changing Places toilets.
Click here to see how we can accelerate Changing Places installs and help local authorities increase the number of accessible parks and open spaces.
A major obstacle that often prevents local authorities from installing a Changing Places into a park or open space is planning permission or a lack of existing infrastructure.
With a modular approach to construction, that challenge is easily overcome. Modular Changing Places are fabricated off-site, with only the ground works and services needed to be installed onsite. All the fixtures and fittings, such as the internal overhead hoist system and height-adjustable wash basin, come ready assembled, helping to significantly reduce delivery times.
Not only does this option save time and money for the installation process, the units are also able to be moved. Without being dismantled, a modular Changing Place can be craned on to the back of a lorry and relocated into a location of your choice.
This method of Changing Places installation has proved to be hugely popular, with a number of local authorities and charities opting for this accessible solution.
Check out our video below of how we supported RHS Harlow Carr with their modular Changing Places.
Transforming parks and open spaces into accessible havens through the installation of Changing Places toilets is a significant step towards creating an inclusive society. These facilities go beyond mere conveniences; they embody a commitment to equal rights, dignity, and respect for all individuals.
Utilising existing funding avenues and the benefits of modular construction, we believe it is time to unlock the full potential of our parks by embracing the power of Changing Places toilets.
Complete the form below to book a free consultation with our specialists, helping you with everything from design, installation and ongoing service contracts.