A campaign to improve disability access in Peterborough city centre is taking a leap forward with a large fundraising push for new fully accessible toilet facilities.

The Peterborough Unlimited campaign has begun raising money for a modular block of Changing Places toilets which would benefit all residents visiting Peterborough city centre, but in particular those with disabilities and parents with young children.

Campaigners will be outside the Town Hall in Bridge Street on Saturday, June 25 to highlight the lack of adequate toilets in the city centre and raise money for the new facilities which could cost up to £60,000, but would make a huge difference to thousands of people.

The fundraising drive has received the support of prominent politicians as well as local charities who have described the lack of Changing Places toilets as “shocking and heartbreaking”.

The Peterborough Unlimited campaign launched in 2021 to highlight how difficult it is for people with a wide range of disabilities to visit the city centre. And while some progress has been made, including the re-opening of St Peter’s Arcade to limit the distance between Bridge Street and the disabled parking spots at Car Haven, there remains a huge need to deliver new toilet facilities to make the area accessible for all.

Currently, the only Changing Places (fully accessible) toilets are based at Car Haven. Peterborough City Council has recently secured funding to upgrade the disabled toilets at St Peter’s Arcade, but this would still be a long distance for people with limited mobility or additional needs, or parents with young children, to get to if they are visiting Queensgate Shopping Centre or other places nearby.

Peterborough Unlimited is hoping people from all backgrounds will come together on Saturday, June 25 at midday outside the Town Hall to raise awareness of this important issue.

The aim is to keep fundraising until the money has been secured for the new toilets. If the total is not reached, or by any luck there are excess funds, the money will be used to improve the lives of people with disabilities in Peterborough by supporting local charities.

Joel Lamy, who helped launch Peterborough Unlimited, said: “There are thousands of people in Peterborough with disabilities, but many feel unable to visit their own city centre as there are a number of issues, the main one being a lack of suitable toilet facilities which is a huge barrier to going out.

“People with disabilities often don’t drive, so getting a bus into the city centre is one of their few options for getting out. So if we don’t make them feel welcome then all we are doing is condemning them to isolation and increasing feelings of loneliness.

“It can’t be right that families would rather travel to Milton Keynes than Peterborough for a day out. We should be creating a society which allows everyone to enjoy the same opportunities rather than isolating a large number of people.”

Louise Ravenscroft, chief operating officer at Family Voice Peterborough, a charity which helps to improve the lives of children and young people with disabilities or additional needs, said: “It is vital that the public gets behind this campaign and that we all work together to make Peterborough accessible for everyone.

“It is unfair when you care for a child/young person/adult who has to use continence aids and there is nowhere available to cater for their personal care needs.

“Changing someone if you can get them safely out of their wheelchair onto the floor in a standard accessible toilet or in the back of a car if the car is big enough is inhumane, undignified and unhygienic, but this is what some people are having to do.

“We need to encourage planners to make sure at the design stage of any new building and local infrastructure development that they accommodate Changing Places as well as accessible toilets.”

Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Dr Nik Johnson said: “As a children’s doctor I am fully aware of how crucial Changing Places toilets are, and it cannot be right that families are staying away from Peterborough city centre because they worry about how they can go to the toilet.

“There is much more we can do with accessibility which fits in with my 3Cs: compassion, co-operation and community. I wish Peterborough Unlimited good luck with its fundraising and would encourage people to support this excellent cause.”

Actress and disability rights campaigner Julie Fernandez, who helped set up Peterborough Unlimited, said: ‘Disabled people and their families have a right to access and enjoy all that Peterborough has to offer in the same way as their non-disabled counterparts do.

“The law states that businesses should be accessible, but sadly many have not seen this investment as worthwhile! Having a Changing Places toilet available in the centre of town would allow more disabled people and their friends and family to spend their money in their own town rather than having to travel elsewhere.”

MP for North West Cambridgeshire Shailesh Vara said: “I am very pleased to support Peterborough Unlimited’s excellent campaign.

“It is absolutely crucial that those with disabilities and additional needs have proper access to toilet facilities in the city and can therefore feel comfortable visiting the city centre.

“I wish all at Peterborough Unlimited the best in their fundraising activities for this very worthy cause.”

Alison Kerry, head of communications at disability equality charity Scope, which has a shop in Peterborough, said: “Having a centrally located Changing Places facility will be such an important and welcome addition to Peterborough’s city centre. It will make the world of difference for disabled residents and visitors.

“Many disabled people have to make hard decisions about where they can visit based on accessibility. The harsh reality is, if there aren’t suitable, accessible toilet facilities nearby, they have no choice but to go elsewhere to shop, socialise and spend their money.

“Disabled people have a collective spending power of approximately £245 billion per year. Businesses and amenities in Peterborough can enjoy a slice of this Purple Pound if the city centre and its facilities are accessible.

“We hope this fantastic campaign will be supported by the community and businesses alike, so everyone can enjoy what Peterborough has to offer.”

Steve Conway, CEO at Deafblind UK, which has its head office in Peterborough, said: “It is shocking and heartbreaking to see that local residents don’t feel comfortable using Peterborough’s city centre because of its lack of accessibility.

“Everyone should have the opportunity to use public facilities regardless of any disability or health condition that they might have. This is an extremely worthwhile campaign and one that we fully support here at Deafblind UK.”

A spokesperson for St George’s Hydrotherapy Pool in Peterborough said: “On behalf of St George’s service users, we would wish to support an initiative that makes Peterborough a more welcoming, inclusive and accessible place for everyone to visit.”

Nazreen Bibi, CEO of Alpha Autism Care Ltd, said: “Changing Places toilet facilities in Peterborough city centre would not only benefit disabled people but would also encourage more footfall to the city centre and hence help local businesses to thrive.

“Appropriate disabled toilet facilities are in line with basic human rights and Equality Act legislation – it’s a shame that people must fundraise whilst disability rights legal frameworks are disregarded by the powers that be locally and nationally. On behalf of Alpha Autism Care Ltd, I would like to offer our support to Peterborough Unlimited in its campaign and fundraising efforts.”

Donations can be made at: https://www.paypal.com/donate/?hosted_button_id=SJSDHPJU72CJ4.

For more information on Peterborough Unlimited, visit: https://www.facebook.com/PeterboroughUnlimited or email peterboroughunlimited@gmail.com.