IT has been confirmed that Sports Direct will finally install a platform lift at one of its high end stores, after it was revealed the retailer tried to scrap plans to improve disabled access.

Earlier this year, the retailer – which owns several high street names including House of Fraser, USC and Flannels – asked a local authority to remove a planning condition, which required it to install a platform lift for disabled people at its Flannels store in Darlington.

The original proposal to omit the condition, submitted on behalf of Sports Direct, suggested customers would have to “make themselves known at the entrance” of Flannels, because of the shop floor’s height above street level and step only access.

It had been proposed, and had become common practice since the store’s opening, that customers in wheelchairs would be granted access into Flannels via the site’s stock room and back-of-house area.

But on Tuesday, Darlington Borough Council told The Northern Echo that Sports Direct had now given them a “written undertaking” that the firm would be adhering to its original planning conditions, and would install the platform lift by the end of October.

In April, planning officers at Darlington Borough Council rejected the firm’s request, describing proposals to make disabled people enter the store in through the back-of-house area, ‘unreasonable’ and unjustified.

The retailer's original request to remove plans for improved disabled access was also branded “disgraceful” and “appalling” by a Disability-campaign group.

Public refusal documents said officers found there had been no justification to demonstrate why the lift could not be installed, and said staff could not make guarantees that the stock room area would be free of obstruction at all times.

However, dubious of the retailer’s promise to install the platform lift, Nicholas Nash of Darlington said the firm had lost the confidence of disabled people within the community.

He said: “The lift should have been installed as soon as they opened the unit – we’ve had to wait this long, it’s taking the Mick.

“They need to build trust back for disabled people, they have lost a lot of customers both physically and mentally disabled.”

Mr Nash said he did not believe the firm would deliver their promise to install the platform lift by its target timeframe.

A spokesperson for Darlington Borough Council said they had every reason to believe the installation would be carried out within the agreed timescale.