The response from councillor Lib Peck, the Council's Cabinet member for regeneration was disappointing at one level but also encouraging at another:
“Unfortunately we can’t make businesses comply with disability access laws, but we do have some power around the Outer London Fund we will use it to make sure that those properties given money are already compliant.”
It is true that the council can't force local businesses to be accessible. But there is a lot councils can do. Indeed, it has a duty to do them under the Equality Act 2010 which places a responsibility on councils to eliminate discrimination and advance equality of opportunity for disabled people.
The council can, for example, take into consideration access issues when planning applications are submitted. It could run a campaign to raise awareness among local businesses. It could have included these issues in the Streatham Masterplan, but it did not. The fact is that the council has sadly not been proactive in addressing these issues.
One small element of progress however which is encouraging is that we are now getting these issues on the agenda. We now have the promise that money will only go to DDA compliant (accessible) premises, which means if businesses want the money they will need to shape up.
But this is of course different from giving money to shops so that they can become accessible, as part of the programmes of shop-front improvements.