A new Changing Places facility in partnership with Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) will open at 11am Thursday 23 May. The Deputy Mayor will cut the ribbon in front of guests and partners.

Standard accessible toilets do not meet the needs of all people with a disability. This includes people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, as well as older people.

Changing Places toilets are designed for use by disabled people who need specialised facilities when they are out and about. They are larger accessible toilets with equipment such as hoists, curtains, adult-sized changing benches, and space for carers.

The facility has been funded by Forestry England in partnership with TWBC funding awarded from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities Changing Places public toilets initiative.

Jon Codd, General Manager at Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest said:

“I am so pleased that we now have a Changing Places Toilet (CPT) at Bedgebury       and a huge thank you to all the teams who have been involved in building this    facility on site.

There are just 1,796 Changing Places Toilets across the whole of the UK. There was clearly a gap in this particular area of the South-East where there wasn’t one between Tunbridge Wells and Hastings and Burgess Hill and Ashford. But there was also a gap at Bedgebury itself in being able to say we can offer a comfortable toilet and changing space for all our visitors. I feel sure that having this facility will make a difference to the experience of visiting Bedgebury and also to the feeling of wanting to extend the time spent here.”

Katrina O’Leary from Need2Change, a community group dedicated to raising awareness and changing things for the better, for children & adults with complex disabilities and their families said:

“A Changing Places facility at Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest means that     more people are able to spend time connecting with nature, whether that is

physically, intellectually or emotionally. It means people are better supported do             things that others without disabilities take for granted. The lack of suitable             facilities impacts the whole family or group of visitors, not just the Changing         Places user.  They say to us ‘You are welcome here; this place is for you too.’

Bedgebury’s willingness and openness to understand more about the prevalence      and needs of the disabled community, how to enhance the visitor experience and           ensuring that any solution is the best, workable solution is to be commended.

We would like to say a huge thank you to the Forestry England team and funders            for the building of these Changing Places facilities.”

Penny Veck, Visitor Services Manager at Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest said:

“The installation of a Changing Places toilet at the site will help Bedgebury National Pinetum to be more accessible for our visitors and help connect everyone with the nation’s forests. Bedgebury National Pinetum offers a world class tree collection and a place where visitors can enjoy the beauty and diversity of conifers in every season, and this new facility will mean many more people can explore and feel welcome in this special place. Once confirmed, this funding will be an opportunity to invest further in improving people’s health and wellbeing.”

The nearest Changing Places facilities are in Tunbridge Wells, Hastings, Maidstone, or Ashford.