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Equality and diversity

Equality screening outcome report: Heritage Trail Sign Policy in Belfast City Hall

Published in May 2022


Contents


Overview of screening template

The council has a statutory duty to screen. This includes our strategies, plans, policies, legislative developments; and new ways of working such as the introduction, change or end of an existing service, grant funding arrangement or facility. This screening template is designed to help departments consider the likely equality impacts of their proposed decisions on different groups of customers, service users, staff and visitors.    

Before carrying out an equality screening exercise it is important that you have received the necessary training first. To find out about the training needed or any other queries on screening, contact the Equality and Diversity Officer Lorraine Dennis on extension 6027 or Lisa McKee on extension 6310 or email equality@belfastcity.gov.uk

The accompanying screening guidance note provides straightforward advice on how to carry out equality screening exercises. Detailed information about the Section 75 equality duties and what they mean in practice is available on the Equality Commission’s website[1]

The screening template has four sections to complete. These are:

  • Section A  provides details about the policy or decision that is being screened
  • Section B gives information on the consultation process, supporting evidence gathered and has four key questions outlining the likely impacts on all equality groups
  • Section C has four key questions in relation to obligations under the Disability Discrimination Order  
  • Section D is the formal record of the screening decision

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Section A

Details about the policy or decision to be screened.

1. Title of policy or decision to be screened

Heritage Trail Sign Policy: City Hall

2. Brief description of policy or decision to be screened

(Explain is this a new, revised or existing policy?  Are there financial, legislative or procurement implications?)

1. Brief description of policy / decision to be screened:- 

(Explain - Is this a new, revised or existing policy?  Are there financial / legislative / procurement implications?)

At the meeting of the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee on 23 April 2021, the committee agreed to adopt a Heritage Trail Sign Policy as outlined within the report presented to the committee, subject to the number of signs permissible (suggested as four), being reviewed. This decision was ratified at council on 4 May 2021. 

The report stated that given that there are a number of cultural heritage type projects in development and a focus on community tourism, it was considered that there are likely to be further requests of this nature in the future. No listed building consent is required for the installation of such signs.

The report further stated that against the context of the City Hall being a listed building, it is clearly important to ensure that appropriate restrictions are put in place. Multiple signs placed on the bollards would be unlikely to enhance the appearance of the building. 

It was recommended at committee that the signs would be all uniform in size and shape, in the case of the current application 300mm and round. Under no circumstances would such a sign be permitted to be attached to the building. 

In respect of the east and west sides of the City Hall, it was recommended that no signs would be permitted. However, exceptionally, if an application were to be received related to the content of either of those sides of City Hall, that is the Cenotaph or the Titanic Memorial Gardens, then such an application could be considered but only one at each location.

The report noted that all other applications for interactive signage, subject to approval, would be accommodated by the provision of an interactive screen at the entrance to the exhibition. 

The report stated that with any permission given to install such signage the council would require it to be maintained and would reserve the right to remove it if it became unsightly. It would also reserve the right to remove it in any other exceptional circumstances.

The report noted that there are no financial or resource implications associated with this request save for the installation of an interactive screen.

3. Aims and objectives of the policy or decision to be screened
(What is the policy trying to achieve?)

The policy is being introduced to address the regulation of any installation of interpretative interactive signs at City Hall and within the curtilage of the grounds.

The City Hall is the most prestigious building in the city of Belfast and is one of the most instantly recognisable symbols of the city. It has a unique, iconic status and is very much seen as the ‘heart of the city’. The building has three prestigious function areas: the Reception Room, the Banqueting Hall and the Great Hall. These rooms typically hold around 400 functions a year, attracting over 30,000 guests each year. The City Hall is open to the public Monday to Sunday and free public and private tours of City Hall are conducted on these days. Since 2009 (when City Hall reopened after being renovated) visitor numbers have been steadily rising. The opening of a new Exhibition visitor attraction in May 2017 has helped to increase the overall number of visitors to The City Hall to over 100,000.

The City Hall also benefits from its extensive grounds which act as a focal point being the only green open space in the city centre. The grounds are open to the public and are frequently used for high profile public events including the Christmas and Spring Continental markets.

In keeping with the EQIA carried out independently for City Hall grounds, the ambition for the signage would be to ensure balanced content and inclusivity. Subject to the content promoted by interactive signage it is a potential means by which some element of rebalancing can be achieved in which a more contemporary image of the city can be portrayed. The content promoted by the interactive signage should have some relationship with the material and themes promoted by City Hall Visitor Exhibition.

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4. Who will the policy or decision impact?

Consider the internal and external impacts (both actual or potential) and explain.

People Actual or potential impact
Staff No
Service users No
Other public sector organisations Yes
Voluntary, community groups and trade unions Yes
Others, please specify
  • Visitors to City Hall
Yes

5. Are there linkages to other agencies or departments?

The council’s Property Maintenance section have confirmed that there is a requirement to consult with and seek approval from Heritage and Planning.

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Section B

Information on the consultation process, supporting evidence gathered and has four key questions outlining the likely impacts for equality and good relations.

6. Outline consultation process planned or achieved

The decision to proceed with the Heritage Trail was taken by the council on 4 May 2021.

An Expression of Interest exercise was carried out between 9 September 2021 and 8 October 2021. On 22 October 2021 the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee agreed that four submissions which had met the criteria and scoring threshold should be progressed to the next stage in the process and that other groups which had been identified by members but had not submitted an expression of interest be included for consideration. The committee further agreed that officers work with a number of other proposals for which a previous interest had been expressed outside of the current process. 

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7. Available evidence

What evidence or information (both qualitative and quantitative) have you gathered to inform this policy?  Set out all evidence to help inform your screening assessment. It is important to record information gathered from a variety of sources such as: monitoring information; complaints; research surveys; consultation exercises from other public authorities.

Section 75 category Details of evidence, information and engagement
Religious belief

In terms of religion or religion brought up in, the 2011 Census indicates that 48.8 per cent of Belfast residents are from a Catholic community background and 42.3 per cent from a Protestant background. Christianity remains the main religion, with religious diversity reflected through Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Buddhist and Jewish.

In the context of Northern Ireland, there are correlations between political, religious and racial background.

Political opinion

In the context of Northern Ireland, there are correlations between political, religious and racial background.

Racial group

According to the Census 2011, 96.7 per cent of Belfast’s population is white. Just over 3 per cent of the population are from an ethnic background. In the context of NI, there are correlations between political, religious and racial background. 

Age

The age profile of blind and people with sight loss and other disability in Northern Ireland differs from that of the resident population as a whole. In general terms, they tend to be older than the general population. For example, while 21 per cent of the resident population are aged between under one year old and 15 years old, only 4.1 per cent of blind or partially-sighted peole are in this age category. In contrast, 59 per cent of the blind or partially-sighted population are aged 65 or over, compared with 15 per cent of usual residents.

The age profile of Belfast is similar to that of the wider region. Almost one in five residents (19.23 per cent) are aged under 16, slightly lower than the Northern Ireland average (20.95 per cent). The working age population (aged 16 to 64 years old) make up two-thirds (66.32 per cent) of all Belfast residents. Older people (aged 65 plus) currently account for 14.44 per cent of the Belfast population.

Statistics also reveal an ageing population. From 2001-2011, the population aged over 65 years has increased by 40,400 (18  per cent). Furthermore, those aged over 85 years have seen the greatest proportional increase; in 2001 there were 23,300 people aged over 85 years, which has now increased to 31,400 (an increase of 35 per cent over the decade) NISRA published a statistical bulletin in May 2016 entitled ‘Population Projections for areas within Northern Ireland: 2014-based’. It relates to the time period mid-2014 to mid-2039. The bulletin contains key data relevant to the ageing population as well as how the age structure of the population is projected to change. For example:

The population aged 65 and over is projected to increase by 74.4  per centto 498,500 people from mid-2014 to mid-2039, with the result that one in four people (24.7 per cent) will be in this age category.

  • The population aged 85 and over is projected to increase by 157.3 per cent to 88,600 people over the same period, which will see their share of the population increase from 1.9 per cent to 4.4 per cent. Older people make up an increasing proportion of the population, with falling birth rates, increased life expectancy and better health contributing to this trend. In line with this, it has to be equally acknowledged that certain aspects of quality of life may be adversely affected as people get older, one of which can be sight loss. In light of such growing statistics, there is a real urgency to ensure that policy makers take action to tackle the barriers and mitigate the effects that blind and partially sighted people face when using the streetscape.

It is important that the heritage trail signs are accessible to use. 

Marital status

None. This is not relevant.

Sexual orientation

None. This is not relevant.

Men and women generally

None. This is not relevant.

Disability

Census figures show that almost one quarter (23 per cent) of Belfast residents have a long-term health problem or disability which affects their day-to-day activities. This is a higher proportion than the Northern Ireland average (20.1 per cent). Over one-third of Belfast residents reported that they had a long-term condition (defined as a condition which has lasted, or is expected to last, at least 12 months). The most common conditions were mobility or dexterity difficulty (39 per cent of all those affected), pain or discomfort (34 per cent), shortness of breath or difficulty breathing (31 per cent) and emotional, psychological or mental health condition (23 per cent).

The table shows population information on blindness (or partial sight loss) and other communication difficulty. Belfast has a higher percentage of residents with blindness, sight loss and communication difficulty.

Sight loss affects the ability to receive and use information, to get out and about and travel independently, to act effectively as an informed consumer and, generally, to participate in society.

Disabled people are both pedestrians and users of City Hall grounds. It is important that the heritage sign trail is accessible to use.  Pedestrians, particularly disabled people and those with restricted mobility or people with sight loss or who are blind, may be impacted by new hazards.

Problems are caused when items are poorly placed and managed, overused, or when the obstacle itself is hard to see or detect properly with a white cane. In these cases fixtures can become a hazard and increase the risk of significant collisions that result in injury.

Dependants

None. This is not relevant.

Table with percentages of people in Belfast and Northern Ireland with blindness, sight loss or a communication difficulty.

Disability Belfast population Northern Ireland population
Number of people Percentage Number of people Percentage
People with blindness or partial sight loss 6,729 2.02% 30,862 1.70%
People with a communication difficulty 6,460 1.93% 29,871 1.65%

8. What is the likely impact (indicate if the policy impact is positive or negative) on equality of opportunity for those affected by this policy, for each of the Section 75 equality categories? What is the level of impact?

Section 75 category If 'yes', provide details If 'no', provide reasons
Religious belief

Positive impact on religious groups. For example, a request has been received from a Jewish trail, thereby providing a potential opportunity for that group.

Minor
Political opinion 

Positive impact on political opinion since a request has been received from the Ulster Scots Agency. Ulster Scots is typically associated with the unionist community although others of differing political opinions may also have knowledge of Ulster Scots. 

Minor
Racial group 

Positive impact on racial groups as in the context of Northern Ireland there are correlations between political, religious and racial background. 

Minor

Age

Positive impact since the needs of older people who may have challenges with mobility and sight in relation to using the interactive signage have been considered in light of best practice design and management guidelines.

Minor
Marital status

None

This policy is unlikely to have any impact on anyone identified as having a particular marital status.
Sexual orientation

None

This policy is unlikely to have any impact on anyone identified as having a particular sexual orientation.
Men and women generally 

None

This policy is unlikely to have any impact on men and women generally.
Disability

Positive impact since the needs of disabled people who may have challenges with mobility and sight in relation to using the interactive signage have been considered in light of best practice design and management guidelines

Minor

 Dependants

None

This policy is unlikely to have any impact on anyone with dependents.

9.  Are there opportunities to better promote equality of opportunity for people within the Section 75 equalities categories?

Section 75 category If 'yes', provide details If 'no', provide reasons
Religious belief

This is not applicable.

There are no opportunities to promote equality issues of this nature.

Political opinion 

This is not applicable.

There are no opportunities to promote equality issues of this nature.

Racial group 

This is not applicable.

There are no opportunities to promote equality issues of this nature.

Age

Yes, by making the interactive signage accessible to all.

This is not applicable.

Marital status

This is not applicable.

There are no opportunities to promote equality issues of this nature.

Sexual orientation

This is not applicable.

There are no opportunities to promote equality issues of this nature.

Men and women generally 

This is not applicable.

There are no opportunities to promote equality issues of this nature.

Disability

Yes, by making the interactive signage accessible to all.

This is not applicable.

 Dependants

This is not applicable.

There are no opportunities to promote equality issues of this nature.


10. To what extent is the policy likely to impact (positive or negatively) on good relations between people of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group? What is the level of impact? 

Good relations category Likely impact Level of impact
Religious belief

Positive

Minor
Political opinion  Positive Minor
Racial group Positive Minor

11.  Are there opportunities to better promote good relations between people of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group?  

Good relations category If 'yes', provide details If 'no', provide details
Religious belief

Positive

Minor
Political opinion 

Positive

Minor
Racial group 

Positive

Minor

Section C

Belfast City Council also has legislative obligations to meet under the Disability Discrimination Order. Questions 12 and 13 relate to these areas.

12. Does this proposed policy or decision provide an opportunity for the council to better promote positive attitudes towards disabled people?

Explain your assessment in full

The needs of disabled people have been considered. As an organisation we are committed to equality and diversity. We deliver services to all customers and in doing so promote positive attitudes towards disabled people.

The council will equality proof all stages and phases of development of the interactive signage and will develop a monitoring and evaluating tool to capture the customer experiences. This will include a particular focus in ensuring disabled customers are involved in the design phase and will also include consultation with the council’s Disability Advisory Panel. 


13. Does this proposed policy or decision provide an opportunity to actively increase the participation by disabled people in public life?

Explain your assessment in full

Engagement with the council’s Disability Advisory Panel and Equality Consultative Forum will take place in the early stages of the design phase.

The council will equality proof all stages and phases of development of the policy and develop a monitoring and evaluating tool to capture the customer experiences. This will include a particular focus in ensuring disabled customers are involved in the design phase.


14. Multiple identities

Provide details of data on the impact of the policy with multiple identities

The Heritage Sign Trail should be beneficial to all council customers including those affected by inequalities across multiple identities.  No specific data has been produced from existing engagement activity, but should data become available at any point, action will be taken to address any potential differential impact.


15. Monitoring arrangements

Section 75 places a requirement the council to have equality monitoring arrangements in place:

  • to assess the impact of policies and services
  • to help identify barriers to fair participation
  • to better promote equality of opportunity
Outline what data you will collect in the future to monitor the impact of this policy or decision on equality, good relations and disability duties.
Equality Good Relations Disability Duties

Customer complaints, compliments and feedback

Customer complaints, compliments and feedback Customer complaints, compliments and feedback

Customer metrics analysis
Customer engagement (including mystery shopper) 

Customer metrics analysis
Customer engagement (including mystery shopper) 
Customer metrics analysis
Customer engagement (including mystery shopper) 
The council will equality proof all stages and phases of development of the policy and develop a monitoring and evaluating tool to capture the customer experiences. This will include a particular focus in ensuring disabled customers are involved in the design phase. The council will equality proof all stages and phases of development of the policy and develop a monitoring and evaluating tool to capture the customer experiences. This will include a particular focus in ensuring disabled customers are involved in the design phase. The council will equality proof all stages and phases of development of the policy and develop a monitoring and evaluating tool to capture the customer experiences. This will include a particular focus in ensuring disabled customers are involved in the design phase.

Section D

Formal record of screening decision

Title of proposed policy or decision being screened

Heritage Trail Sign Policy: City Hall

I can confirm that the proposed policy or decision has been screened for:

  • equality of opportunity and good relations
  • disability duties
On the basis of the answers to the screening questions, I recommend that this policy or decision is
Screened in 
It is necessary to conduct an equality impact assessment
Not applicable

Screened out: no EQIA is necessary (no impacts)

Applicable


Screened out
Mitigating actions (minor impacts)

  • Provide a brief note to explain how this decision was reached
  • Explain what mitigating actions or policy changes will now be introduced.

The needs of disabled people have been and will be considered in the development of the Heritage Trail Sign Policy. This will include a particular focus in ensuring disabled customers are involved in the design phase and will also include consultation with the council’s Disability Advisory Panel. This will help to mitigate against any potential adverse impact on the disabled community. 


Screening assessment completed by

Name:  Susan McNeill
Date: 4 May 2022
Department: Legal and Civic Services


Screening decision approved by

Name: John Walsh
Date: 6 May 2022
Department: Chief Executive's Department

Please save the Word final version of the completed screening form and email to the Equality and Diversity Officer: equality@belfastcity.gov.uk  A link to this screening form will be provided to the council's Section 75 consultees.

For more information about equality screening, contact:

Lorraine Dennis or Lisa McKee
Equality and Diversity Unit
Belfast City Council
Belfast City Hall
Belfast
BT1 5GS
Telephone:  028 9027 0511
Email: equality@belfastcity.gov.uk

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Footnotes

[1] Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (link opens in new window)

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