Ballroom dancers' fury . . . .

  1. . . . as council carpets community centre floors - because of risk of injury

    By JAMES TOZER

    Last updated at 18:54pm on 4th February 2008



    You won't catch the professionals from Strictly Come Dancing attempting to display their moves on a patch of carpet.


    But that could be the fate of amateur dancers in Blackpool after their traditional shiny floors fell foul of health and safety experts.

    Groups of pensioners meet regularly at community centres across the resort to enjoy a few waltzes or other gentle routines, and they find the polished parquet is the perfect surface.

    Now, however, the floors are all being carpeted over because the local council says the risk of people slipping over on them is too great.

    It admits that this has scuppered the dancers, but claims the non-stick surface is more suitable for other activities - such as karate.

    Baffled locals said they couldn't remember anyone hurting themselves on the floors and accused bureaucrats of showing a lack of common sense.

    They said that if the ban could strike in Blackpool, famed for more than a century for its ballroom dancing, then it could affect anywhere in the country.

    Doreen Holt, a councillor who uses Ibbison Court community centre, said: "The parquet floor has been there since it was built in 1973, and there have never been any injuries in that time.

    "Then all of a sudden the health and safety people come in and say it's got to be covered up with carpet.

    "Apparently the council had no choice because if someone did slip over then they might be sued.

    "The dance group used to come here once a week, but they've had to move to a room at a local school with a polished floor because they can't move their feet properly on carpet.

    "It's such a shame because it was a good, gentle form of exercise for them, and we're always being told how we need to be more active these days.

    "Now the worry is that the same thing will happen at the school and they'll have nowhere to go. It's health and safety gone mad."

    Fellow local councillor Ivan Taylor also attacked the council decision, which is part of a £250,000 upgrade of 16 community centres to bring them in line with disability guidelines.

    "On one hand we have the health people saying dancing is good for older people because it helps their fitness levels, and on the other hand health and safety are saying it is dangerous because people could fall over," he said.

    Blackpool council, which is behind the plans, said smooth, slippery floors had been deemed unsuitable for the pensioners who form a large proportion of the centres' users.

    They also made the venues warmer and more comfortable and meant spillages were easier to clean up.

    Peter Jefferson, chief executive of Blackpool Coastal Housing, which manages the centres, said: "We were required to do a risk assessment of the centres. "We needed new flooring to fall in line with the Disability Discrimination Act.

    "Carpet is the best option. I know it is not perfect for dancing, but it is perfect for karate."

    The council is looking into possible alternatives, for example providing temporary floor coverings which could be rolled out when the centres were used by dance groups.

    However Dance UK, which works to promote dancing and highlight its health benefits, said anything other than wooden floors would be a step backwards.

    A spokeswoman said: "In our view carpet is not an appropriate surface upon which to dance - there is too much friction which can lead to twisted knees and ankles.

    "For ballroom dancing, parquet flooring is a traditional surface which is still used in many of the great period ballrooms."

    Among the dance enthusiasts forced to move elsewhere is 72-year-old Edwina Parker, who runs the group at Ibbison Court.

    She said: "We're very disappointed - we used to enjoy our dances there, it made you feel ten years younger, and we're sorry it's come to an end. But that's health and safety, I suppose."

    The 16-strong group's weekly gathering is now at a local school. They have to pay £10 to book the room, which has a non-slip vinyl floor that is less suitable for dancing than polished wood but is acceptable to the bureaucrats.

    (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=512266&in_page_id=1770)