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Disabled People (Access)

Volume 204: debated on Tuesday 25 February 1992

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if advice on access arrangements for disabled people will be included in the published version of Planning Policy Guidance Note 1; and if he will make a statement.

We want to encourage the design and construction of new buildings that provide adequately for the needs of disabled people. Development control policy note 16, published in 1985, set out the role of local planning authorities in seeking to achieve that objective. It emphasised the need for the local planning authority and the developer to discuss the arrangements proposed for meeting the needs of disabled people, as one aspect of negotiation over planning applications. It also made clear that the role of the planning system in this context is limited. This is because the internal layout and design of buildings are not normally material to planning applications.

Part M of the building regulations imposes requirements on the design and construction of new non-domestic buildings, so that reasonable access and facilities for disabled people can be secured. Where the requirements of part M apply, planning legislation should not normally be used to impose separate requirements. This is because the internal standards of building construction are best regulated by means of a national code, so that developers know what to expect irrespective of the local authority area in which they are building. The building regulations do not yet extend to internal requirements for disabled people in new buildings. My Department is currently assessing the scope and timing of such an extension, which it hopes to implement next year.

In the interim, we welcome action by local authorities to bring the needs of disabled people in new housing development to the attention of developers, but it would not be right for individual authorities to spend time designing alternative standards, and seeking to impose these through local or unitary development plans, or through planning conditions. However, where there is clear evidence of local need, a local planning authority could include in a local plan a policy indicating that it would seek to negotiate elements of housing accessible to the disabled on suitable sites.

The Government consulted on new guidance on access and the planning system in an annex to the draft Planning Policy Guidance Note 1, issued for public consultation on 1 October 1991. In view of the current work on part M of the building regulations, we have concluded that it would not be appropriate to include detailed guidance which would be soon out of date in the final version of PPG' to be published shortly. Instead, we propose to issue a circular in due course on access requirements which will take account of progress on this issue.