QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
THE ADMINISTRATIVE COURT
B e f o r e :
Sitting as a Deputy Judge of the High Court
|THE QUEEN ON THE APPLICATION OF HANSON||(CLAIMANT)|
|MIDDLESBROUGH BOROUGH COUNCIL||(DEFENDANT)|
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MR M LOWE (instructed by Middlesbrough Borough Council) appeared on behalf of the DEFENDANT
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"The appellants have provided written evidence from their GP to show that the 'extra facility' is of major importance to Mrs Hanson. Her quality of life is improved by the bathroom facilities in the superior en suite bathroom converted from the former bedroom accommodation. The Tribunal acknowledge the opinion of Dr Hargate but accept his judgment is based on his personal knowledge of Mrs Hanson. The Tribunal have to consider the circumstances with regard to criteria set out in the relevant legislation. In the light of the bathroom facilities which already existed at the property, the extra facility is not considered to be of essential or major importance to Mrs Hanson's well-being. The appellants would be able to occupy the property if this additional bathroom had not been created. From the evidence submitted by the parties, if the property was vacant a potential purchaser would not be able to detect that the bungalow had been adapted or altered in a manner to accommodate the specific needs of a disabled person."
"The Tribunal acknowledge the opinion of Dr Hargate but accept his judgment is based on his personal knowledge of Mrs Hanson."
So am I. On 12th April 2005 Dr Hargate had written to Mr Hanson as follows:
"I can confirm that she is registered blind and suffers from hypothyroidism and hypotension. Because of your wife's visual difficulties, I consider that it would be entirely appropriate for her to have a bathroom, which is not the only bathroom within the dwelling, which is required to meet the needs of her visual impairment."
On 17th August 2005 Dr Hargate wrote further to Mr Hanson as follows:
"It follows from my previous letter the reason that it would be appropriate to have a bathroom which is not the only bathroom within the dwelling would be to prevent falls and subsequent serious injury which your wife is likely to suffer from in view of her lack of orientation due to her visual difficulties."
So in the doctor's opinion there is a real risk of falls because of lack of orientation due to visual difficulties, which could cause serious injury, and the en suite bathroom assists in alleviating that risk.
"The judge decided that because the additional heating was necessary by reason of the applicant's disability, it could be said that the room was of essential or of major importance to her well-being by reason of the nature and extent of her disability. I do not feel able to accept that. What is necessary by reason of the nature and extent of the applicant's disability is the heating not the room. Of course she needs a room in which to put the heater, but I think the real question is: why is she using the room. It cannot have been the intention of Parliament to grant a rebate merely because a room is predominantly used by a disabled person. That is quite inconsistent with the language of the section. It seems to me that the user of the room must be related to the disability. Section 1(2)(a) refers to both user and to the fact that the room must be required to meet the needs of the disabled person because of the disablement. The form of the paragraph is such that the two requirements are very closely related. That is, I think, emphasised by the word 'required'. The room must be required to meet the needs of the disabled person by reason of the disability.
It seems to me that the applicant uses the living room simply because, like anybody else, she needs a living room and not because of her disability. She uses it as an ordinary living room. She requires it as a room to live in and not as a room to put the heater in. She needs the heater to give her extra warmth because of her disability. She might equally need extra blankets on her bed, but that would not have the consequence that her bedroom became a room within section 1(2)(a). If a disabled person requires an additional room in the flat to house a particular piece of equipment which is necessary by reason of the disablement (for example, a kidney machine), the case might fall within paragraph (a) because, assuming the room is predominantly used in the way provided by paragraph (a), the room would be used because of the disability. But the applicant does not use her living room because of a disability. In my view, therefore, section 1(2)(a) does not apply to this case. That conclusion is, I think, consistent with the fact that the basis of the applicant's case is her need for the heater, and Parliament has made express provision for heating equipment but only if the equipment serves two or more rooms which is not the present case."