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Council to issue more RADAR keys for public toilets but warned it may have unintended consequences

Portadown People's Park

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council has confirmed it would be able to issue RADAR keys to groups and schools across the borough but warned doing so may have other, unintended, consequences.

A RADAR key (sometimes known as an NKS key) is a large silver coloured, skeleton key that opens more than 10,000 locked, disabled toilets and changing places facilities across the UK.

At a meeting of council in June, Councillor Julie Flaherty asked for the local authority to ensure it has a consistent borough-wide approach to RADAR keys and their availability.

A report presented to members of council’s environmental services committee on Tuesday, September 6, confirmed that to the end of June this year, council has issued 490 RADAR keys since April 2020.

However, while there is nothing to stop council broadening access to these keys, officers have advised there are some issues to consider when opting to do so.

A robust application process would need to be set out with a named individual responsible for the key and its use. The reason for the request would have to be specified and the acceptable criteria agreed upon by councillors.

It was also noted if larger numbers of people are to use a RADAR facility, the likelihood of the facility maintaining the level of cleanliness throughout the day would be reduced.

According to the report, RADAR toilets tend not to be vandalised and if access was increased, this may increase the likelihood of vandalism.

Commenting on the report, Cllr Flaherty said it was important that council promotes a positive attitude towards disabled people and asked that it does more to promote the availability of RADAR keys.

“This council in its disability action plan makes it very clear we need to promote positive attitudes towards disabled people to encourage participation,” said Cllr Flaherty.

“We are very lucky, there are issues I have with some of the parks but we are doing very well and are punching above our weight compared to other councils.

“However, given we have three fully accessible Changing Places toilets coming in to use very soon in Lurgan Park, Gosford and Portadown People’s Park, can I just suggest one thing: when the time is right, can suitable messaging and communication be conveyed to the public.

“I am not sure that people know exactly the criteria and how we go about getting these keys so that people know how to avail of a radar key from council and how much it costs.

Council’s head of environmental services, Barry Patience, confirmed he was “very happy” to ensure communication about the accessibility of RADAR keys was further promoted on the website, describing such a step as a “good idea”.

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