Accessibility issues raised ahead of beach’s opening

Kids test out Penrith Beach. Photo: Megan Dunn.
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Penrith City Council has raised serious concerns about accessibility issues at Penrith Beach, which is due to open later this month.

It comes as it’s revealed plans for a major Australia Day event at the beach are planned for January next year.

The State Government announced last month that a portion of Western Sydney Lakes would be opened to the public throughout the summer, giving locals a beach to tackle stifling heat expected across the months ahead.

But concerns have now been raised regarding access for members of the community with a disability.

This week, the Department of Planning and Environment confirmed that the beach will be “fully accessible” with dedicated mats to allow wheelchairs to immerse in the water.

However, it is understood adult changing facilities will not be available and shuttle buses to and from the beach won’t be wheelchair friendly.

“Unfortunately, at this point the buses are not wheelchair accessible but ways to provide this service are being examined,” a Department of Planning and Environment spokesperson said.

“However, there will be accessible car parking spaces available and a drop off zone for people on site.”

Council is allocating $100,000 to a program of activation at Penrith Beach, including the Australia Day event.

But some Councillors have raised concerns that the State Government was coming to Council for funding so late in the piece.

“This seems to have been some sort of a half baked idea that hasn’t been thought out by the State Government,” Councillor Ross Fowler said at Council’s meeting on Monday.

“I fear that the facilities that are being offered and put in place aren’t going to be adequate.

“I really am disappointed. A lot of political mileage has been made out of this but Council has been left to pick up the tab in making it worthwhile.”

In agreeing to provide the $100,000, Council has asked that its General Manager be granted delegation to approve the program of events for the beach, in consultation with the Mayor and Deputy Mayor.

“The funds that Council voted on is to partner with Western Sydney Lakes to deliver a range of activations on the site for the community, including Australia Day as we all strive to ensure the success of the beach,” Mayor Todd Carney said.

Council is also calling on the State Government to provide an adult changing facility at Penrith Beach from the day that it opens, to ensure full accessibility for members of the community.

Councillor and former Mayor Tricia Hitchen said this was vital.

“Accessibility is not a choice, it’s a basic human right, one that is being denied to the residents of Penrith by this State Government,” she said.

“It is short sighted, ignorant and insulting and the State Government has to do better.”

Council also asked that Western Sydney Lakes allocate funding for an at least equivalent amount of that being provided by Council.

Councillor John Thain said while elements of the plan had clearly been rushed, at least progress had been made on a long-standing desire.

“We’ve been calling on this for a lot of years. It’s bittersweet but at least something is finally starting to happen there,” he said.

“I think it’s something we can build on. I agree with my Councillor colleagues that it’s not ideal… it’s been a bit rushed, but after a long time we’re actually going to have access to something we’ve fought for for a long time.”

Troy Dodds

Troy Dodds is the Weekender's Managing Editor and Breaking News Reporter. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia's leading media organisations. In 2023, he was named Editor of the Year at the Mumbrella Publish Awards.

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