Grade II Listed Buildings – A Reason To Exclude Facilities For the Disabled ?

Having researched disabled facilities at restaurants and bars in London over the last two decades, I have often heard the following from restauranteurs: ‘We don’t have a ramp (and/or disabled toilet) as this is a Grade II Listed Building…’

The latest restaurant to say this to me was Sketch in Conduit St. W1. I wanted to take advantage of their offer to see the Hockney Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, followed by lunch in their Michelin starred Library & Lecture Room. However, there is a flight of stairs to negotiate before getting to the restaurant and no lift, but their staff were very willing to help and would carry me upstairs. There is also no ramp for the steps at the main entrance or steps down to the disabled toilet on the ground floor – …’ because…. Grade II etc.etc.’.

Being fair to Sketch they did say they looked at putting a lift in but couldn’t find a way to do it. Have they heard of the ‘stairclimber’ I used at Leicester Square theatre? Maybe I should show them my video?

This prompted me to contact English Heritage and find out why Disabled facilities were such a hassle in Grade II Listed buildings. I couldnt imagine that they deliberately excluded people with disabilities from their Grade II & I buildings. Here is their response:

‘…Providing full access can be a challenge in listed buildings, but it is rarely the case that improvements cannot be achieved at all . In the case which you mentioned to us, it would have been the local authority, rather than English Heritage that dealt with the listed building consent application as they are Grade II listed buildings and English Heritage only advises on Grade II * and Grade I listed buildings . Generally we encourage creative, high quality solutions to improving access. As you will see from our guidance: there is actually quite a lot you can do to improve access in listed buildings. If you ever want to visit our sites, I can let you know that as of autumn this year we will have a new access guide available which will have much more comprehensive access information to help you plan your visit. All of our properties will have their own access information on our website too.’

They referred me to their Guidance Notes . The document did indeed have great examples of ‘creative solutions’. They mention portable ramps, a very cheap option and one I always mention to venues, as well as stair climbers. Even The Wellington Arch has a lift!!

So, unperturbed I contacted the City of Westminster saying: ‘I have contacted English Heritage regarding the Grade II Listed building that is the restaurant Sketch, in Conduit St. and they referred me to yourselves. I would like to know why this building is inaccessible to disabled diners? This appears to be just one of many restaurants in the City of Westminster that uses the Grade II listing as a reason why they cannot have a ramp or disabled toilet. Can you please comment as users of my site would be very interested.’

I am awaiting a reply, so as they say in TV Land…To Be Continued..!