Joy as new disabled facility opens in Horsham town centre after six year battle

After six years of battling, delighted campaigners have expressed their joy over the opening of a new disabled facility in Horsham.

Samantha Buck has been lobbying with her son Alfie to get a Changing Places toilet facility created inside Swan Walk shopping centre.

(From left) Alfie and Samantha Buck with Gill Buchanan Swan Walk centre manager in the new Changing Place facility

(From left) Alfie and Samantha Buck with Gill Buchanan Swan Walk centre manager in the new Changing Place facility

The pair were left overjoyed last year after being told the facility would be included in the centre’s plans to redevelop the former BHS unit and old toilets.

Now after more than a year’s worth of works the new toilets have officially opened and Samantha and Alfie have been celebrating their success.

Samantha said: “We couldn’t stay (in town) before, it was a nightmare. Now that this is in the town we can stay all day and do the lovely things that happen in town. It just opens up everything there’s no reason not to go out now.”

Samantha and Alfie’s story first came to light in 2013.

Alfie was born with severe brain damage and has quadriplegic cerebral palsy and needs help when going to the toilet.

When the pair were out and about in town Samantha said she had been forced to change him on the ‘urine soaked floors’ of public toilets as there were few facilities with equipment needed to help him.

This sparked her long running campaign and she launched a national petition calling for Changing Places toilets to be provided across the country, which gained almost 40,000 signatures.

Samantha said she and her family had missed out on enjoying many of the events in town together as they had to think about returning home just to use the toilet.

She said: “We can stay all day with all of the family. When the Piazza comes to town and all the marvellous events come here we can stay all day now.”

The facility includes a changing bench and a hoist along with a toilet with a screen so parents and carers have some privacy if they need to use the toilet.

Samantha said it would not only help parents of disabled youngsters like Alfie but would also benefit older people as well as carers who also needed to use the toilet whilst out in the town centre.

She said: “It’s not just for if Alfie needs the loo. It’s if the carer or myself need the toilet we won’t be leaving a vulnerable adult on their own.”

She added it will also help parents looking after other children as well as their disabled youngster as there was a lot more room inside the Changing Places toilets for everyone.

Gill Buchanan, Swan Walk centre manager, said: “All of us at Swan Walk are delighted that the redevelopment of the old BHS store has allowed us to invest in our customers’ experience as we had always promised we would when the opportunity arose.

“Our regular and loyal visitors can now enjoy amazing toilets with almost double the previous provision, we have two accessible toilets as well as a larger parent and baby changing room. Baby change facilities are also available in the larger cubicles in both the male and female toilets.”

She added: “Having the room to deliver such great space for our customers has also given us the opportunity to add a Changing Places facility. This supports local families and carers which is particularly rewarding for us all.”

A Changing Places facility is also set to be created in the Piries Place redevelopment.