Locals lament accessibility elevator planned at historic staircase

“People wanting to get up the stairs could use the 311 bus, which has its bus stop at the bottom of the stairs, and arrive at Macleay Street,” he said. “For the descent to Woolloomooloo, locals in Potts Point can still use the 311 bus as they do now.”

Woodhouse said an elevator should not be built until its heritage and social impact have been assessed and costs, including ongoing maintenance, have been disclosed.

McElhone Stairs is one of a number of public stairways in downtown Sydney and one of three connecting Woolloomooloo to Potts Point.

Australian Institute of Architects chair Jennifer Preston said public stairs are an important part of the city’s urban heritage.

McElhone Stairs was the scene of espionage activity during the Cold War when it was used as a secret landing point by Soviet spies.

The historic staircase has also been featured in films, novels and paintings by Sali Herman, John Olsen and Brett Whitley.

Preston said public stairways like McElhone Stairs are free and open to anyone who can physically step on them to enjoy the views, exercise opportunities and shortcuts they offer.


“I think if we want to have a city where access is as equitable as possible, then having a lift between the lower level of Woolloomooloo and the upper level of Victoria Street is essential,” she said.

The National Trust’s NSW arm, Director for Conservation David Burdon, said there were horrifying examples of an ugly ramp or unappealing lift badly grafted onto an old building with little care or attention.

However, he said modern accessibility requirements can often be reconciled with historical values.

“Finally, the McElhone Stairs were ultimately a beautiful urban response to an accessibility problem,” he said. “Hopefully, a similarly beautiful answer can be provided to address the same problem for today’s needs.”

The chief executive of the Physical Disability Council of NSW, Serena Ovens, said it would be fabulous to provide a lift wherever there are stairs.


However, she said it was more important to consider full accessibility “from the start of any project, not as an afterthought” and to provide options for people with disabilities that do not require significantly longer travel times.

Ovens said elevators have been installed on landmarks like the Sydney Harbor Bridge without compromising heritage values.

“Australia needs to reinforce and overcome its reluctance to improve access,” she said, “both in our historic buildings and sites and in the new structures we are building.”

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https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/catch-a-bus-instead-locals-decry-accessibility-lift-planned-at-historic-stairway-20230125-p5cfgd.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_national_nsw Locals lament accessibility elevator planned at historic staircase

Callan Tansill

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