Hebden Bridge Town Hall redevelopment is a fine example of how an old building can be transformed into an inclusive and accessible community hub, according to a new book by local architect Alison Grant.
She has used the town hall as a case study in the Access Audit Handbook, a guide to making sure buildings meet legal standards on disabled access.
And photographs for the case study were provided by former Hebden Royd Town Councillor Jade Smith, who is herself a wheelchair user and is now able to access the town hall independently for the first time.
“Jade was consulted during the early design stages and was able to give the team a personal account of the access difficulties she had encountered,” said Alison.
“On an individual level, the success of the redevelopment is demonstrated by the fact that Jade was able to access, independently and with dignity, the whole of the town hall to take her photographs.”
Changes made during the redevelopment mean that disabled people are now able to access the main council chamber without help from a member of staff and all floors are accessible via a lift or platform lift.
Other improvements include a bespoke wheelchair-friendly reception desk, and modern accessible toilets.
Jade, who is a keen photographer as well as a former councillor, said it was fitting that she’d been able to contribute to a book about accessibility.
“As someone who uses a wheelchair I understand the frustrations of not being able to enter and use buildings independently. The town hall is a great example of what can be achieved with careful planning and design and I was delighted to be able to contribute to Alison’s book.”
Alison, of Heptonstall, has been an architect for 20 years and has had her own practice since 2001. She has worked on projects as diverse as mud-brick self-builds and skyscrapers, and as far afield as Canada, Hong Kong and Australia. Over the years she has become more and more interested in the idea of making buildings as inclusive, sustainable and accessible as possible, and a lot of her work focuses on these aims.