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Visitor Access and Orientation

Assembly Commission – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 4:00 pm on 26th January 2009.

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Photo of Barry McElduff Barry McElduff Sinn Féin 4:00 pm, 26th January 2009

4. asked the Assembly Commission how it plans to manage (i) accommodation for visitors to Parliament Buildings to ensure easy access to catering facilities; and (ii) signage and information to enhance visitor orientation.      (AQO 1923/09)

Photo of Séan Neeson Séan Neeson Alliance

Since September 2008, the Assembly’s gift shop, which is beside the reception area, has provided a hot beverage service for all visitors to the Building, and facilities branch has introduced light snacks, such as tray bakes, to accompany the hot beverages. Immediately on entering the Building, signage informs visitors about that catering facility. The engagement strategy includes several proposals to improve visitor orientation: the provision of a public café; the renewal of all visitor material; the enhancement of visitor orientation and information through the provision of improved signage and increased staff intervention externally and internally; and that all visitor-facing staff attend or receive a daily briefing.

In August 2008, facilities branch also devised information cards to be used by security staff at reception when welcoming visitors to the Building. The laminated cards highlighted various key facilities on entering Parliament Buildings and are available in 11 languages. Furthermore, plans are in place to erect external signs along the front perimeter fence at the east and west entrances, and along the access road to the east side of the Building. Those signs will provide visitors with a range of information, including opening times, security contact details and directional arrows to assist access.

Photo of Barry McElduff Barry McElduff Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. I take this opportunity to praise Eurest, the company that provides catering in the Building, for doing a great job. When I asked the question, I was unaware, as would many Members have been, that the hot beverage service was available in the shop beside the front door of the Building. The casual visitor to the Building has a restricted experience.

Photo of David McClarty David McClarty UUP

Order. That is enough advertising for Eurest; ask your question, Mr McElduff.

Photo of Barry McElduff Barry McElduff Sinn Féin

I seek assurance from the Commission that the issue will appear consistently on the agenda. It can be difficult to attract causal visitors from west of the Bann, but when they come, they want as much free movement as possible throughout the Building and access to the excellent catering arrangements that the rest of us enjoy.

Photo of Séan Neeson Séan Neeson Alliance

I assure Mr McElduff that the signage at the entrance to the Building directs people to the new facility. It is worth bearing in mind that the Commission is reviewing the provision of facilities for visitors to the Building. I stress that one of the Commission’s main aims is not only to increase the outreach process but to improve it. I assure him that we continually keep all such issues under review.

Photo of Ken Robinson Ken Robinson UUP 4:15 pm, 26th January 2009

I am heartened to hear that the website is receiving about 9 million hits and that our tray bakes are about to take off as well — hopefully to the same height.

Has the Commission considered the better management, or extension, of our car-parking facilities — which are under considerable strain, perhaps due to the success of our visitor programme — so that Assembly staff can enjoy a reasonable working environment by having guaranteed parking spaces?

Photo of Séan Neeson Séan Neeson Alliance

Mr Robinson has raised an important issue. He will be aware that the number of car-parking spaces was increased last summer. The Assembly Commission is aware of the need to develop good access to the Building. However, car parking for staff at Parliament Buildings is the same as that for staff in the rest of the estate, and it is a case of first come, first served.

Photo of David McClarty David McClarty UUP

Question 5 has been withdrawn.