‘OFFENSIVE’ plans that will prevent disabled people accessing a £535,000 observation tower at Risley Moss Nature Reserve have been approved.

Arsonists burned the previous viewing platform at the beauty spot to the ground in an attack in 2017.

But the scheme to replace the structure – funded by FCC environment, Warrington Borough Council and donations from residents – will deliver a stunning new tower.

A total of £250,000 grant funding has been provided by FCC environment through its WREN grant scheme, in addition to £10,000 raised through crowdfunding and Risley Moss Action Group fundraising activities.

The council will be putting up to £275,000 towards the project.

The council’s application to replace the tower came before the development management committee on Wednesday.

Leader Cllr Russ Bowden (LAB – Birchwood) said WREN was prepared to pay the £250,000 as long as the ‘landmark project’ was achieved by March 2020.

However, the application has proved to be controversial due to there being no ramp included, with Birchwood Town Council raising concerns over the design not providing disability access.

But borough council officers said, while there will be disabled people who will be unable to access the viewing platform, the securing of a ‘webcam or suitable alternative’ would mitigate some of the impact.

Independent Birchwood town councillor Ian Atkin told the committee he is ‘fully supportive’ of the need to replace it but labelled the level of disability provision as ‘totally inadequate and offensive’.

He said: “Despite there being accessible paths leading to the site, there is no stepless access proposed for the new tower.

“Instead, it is proposed that a slot be cut out of the fence at ground level to allow wheelchair users to view the moss.

“The excuse of time-limited funding is just that – an excuse for fundamental errors made during the requirements specification process.”

Cllr Bowden said the community was ‘horrified’ by the arson attack in 2017 and that there was an ‘overwhelming’ level of support for the replacement.

Warrington Guardian:

He also claimed the cost to deliver a ramp would make the project ‘non-viable’.

“I accept entirely the issue around the ramp and accessibility and legally we are required to make reasonable adjustments,” he added.

“At this stage, in order to complete a project at all, we need to move forward, on that basis I urge you to support it.”

Committee member Cllr Joan Grime (LAB – Culcheth, Glazebury and Croft) said she was disappointed plans for a ramp were not included for the future.

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She also said she hopes the need for disabled access ‘will be taken very seriously’ by the council and that it could be put in place as soon as possible.

The application was approved, subject to conditions.