CAMPAIGNERS have called a council ‘cruel and brutal’ for not altering toilet block designs to make them more disability friendly.

More than 500 people had signed a petition calling on Vale of White Horse District Council to think again about proposals for the facilities in Abbey Meadows, which will see six toilets – divided into men and women’s blocks – replaced with four unisex individual cubicles.

The £230,000 project follows the opening of a new £320,000 play area, also funded by the council, in June.

Abbey Meadows Consultation Group presented a petition to the council in October calling for a ‘changing places’ facility in addition to the two disabled access cubicles already included.

Changing places are much larger than standard disabled toilets to give people more room.

This was discussed at a full council meeting in December and then referred to the authority’s cabinet, which met on Friday.

Spokeswoman Naomi Richardson said: “We were hopeful that the council would be sensible and compassionate. However, for some reason, [council leader] Matthew Barber and the cabinet decided that they do not want to support equal access for all, which is very disappointing in a public body. It is a cruel and brutal decision.”

Karen England, also part of the group, said: “Although the upgraded park is now more accessible and inclusive, how can the council possibly say that everyone can use it ‘safely, easily and with dignity’ if there are no toilets available for wheelchair users who cannot self-transfer or for anyone with continence difficulties which require a nappy or pad to be changed?”

Abingdon Mayor Jan Morter said she was ‘very disappointed’.

Local MP Layla Moran said: “’I have consistently supported the campaign for better facilities at Abbey Meadow.

“I welcome the new development but I urge the Vale to make sure that there is enough provision of accessible toilets in place so that everyone can get the most from the new facilities.’”

Ms Richardson said the council had cited budget restrictions as the main reason behind the unpopular decision.

Vale spokeswoman Lucy Billen said: “We recognise the importance of changing places toilet provision for our residents and, where feasible, encourage major new developments and refurbishment schemes to include this facility in their plans, including at our own leisure centres.

“Whilst the council is not proposing to include changing places toilets at Abbey Meadows, as part of our plans to refurbish the current toilet block we will be providing two new accessible toilets that go above and beyond our statutory requirements.”

She added there would also be improved accessibility to the pool area, with a dedicated accessible changing space, electric sensor sliding entrance door and split level reception.