Closure threat to Spinnaker Tower

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The Spinnaker Tower could be forced to close because of the continuing failure to get the outside glass lift to work, The News can today reveal.

Tower operators Heritage admit the ongoing lift saga could force the closure of the 40m landmark because there is no access for disabled people.

There are increasing fears that the outside lift may never work after another series of technical problems caused it to break down.

It means experts have now been trying to fix the external lift for more than a year without success.

And without this second lift Heritage and Portsmouth City Council face the possibility of being sued by disabled people who cannot go up the tower as it does not meet legal requirements for access laid down in the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act.

People need to have two escape routes from a building and currently they are the internal lift and a set of emergency stairs.

But if the fire was in the lift disabled people would not be able to get down the stairs – meaning those who cannot walk unaided are effectively banned from going up until access via the external lift is available.

Portsmouth-based disability campaign group, Speak Out, is to take the issue up with the Disability Rights Commission (DRC), which said it will consider taking legal action.

Speak Out organiser Clive Garnett said: 'This has been dragging on for a long time now and it is simply not right that people are discriminated against in this way.

'As a wheelchair user I have been unable to go up and the same is true for many others. The people involved with the tower have had long enough to sort this out, but they haven't.'

A spokeswoman for the DRC said: 'This does seem to be a breach of section three of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in terms of access to goods and services.'

Heritage deputy chief executive Juliana Delaney said: 'We are only too aware of the possibility that this could happen.

'It would mean we would have to close the tower.

'We always made it clear that we felt the tower should not be opened without everything working.

'We were forced into a situation because the lift broke down minutes before we officially opened.

'But we only went ahead because we were told it would be fixed soon. Clearly from what we are told nobody appears to have a solution to the reliability problem and that is very concerning.'