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Local Plans (Accessibility Standards)

Volume 592: debated on Monday 2 February 2015

4. What steps the Government plan to take to ensure that high accessibility standards are incorporated into local plans. (907330)

Our planning policy is clear that authorities should plan for accessible communities, and guidance further promotes accessible and inclusive design. We are also reviewing housing standards so that they provide for more accessible homes, and all public bodies are bound by the requirements of the Equalities Act 2010, which promotes inclusion.

The Government estimate that a three-bedroom home built to the proposed category 2 costs just £521 more than the less accessible equivalent—about one week’s bill for residential care. Do the Government accept that that shows an urgent need for higher access standards, and for more homes to be built to those standards?

I think the hon. Lady is referring to part M of the building regulations, which has a baseline requirement for accessibility. The housing standards review proposes to allow local authorities to adopt higher standards where they judge that to be applicable. Demography obviously varies between authorities, and Bolton will be quite different from Christchurch. I am a localist and believe that that is the right way forward.

Residents in North East Lincolnshire would welcome a local plan with high accessibility standards—indeed, they would welcome any local plan, but the Labour-controlled council will not produce one until 2017. In the meantime, villages are having many unnecessary planning applications. What advice can the Minister offer my local residents?

The Government strongly exhort all local authorities to have an up-to-date local plan in place, and 80% of authorities now have a published plan and 62% an adopted plan. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman’s authority in Lincolnshire is not following suit.

Habinteg, Age UK, Aspire, Care and Repair, Disability Rights UK, Leonard Cheshire Disability and Mencap all supported Labour’s push to amend the Infrastructure Bill to ensure high standards of accessibility in new housing. Why did the Government oppose those efforts?

I refer the hon. Lady to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi). Every local authority is different and demography varies from area to area. Part M of the building regulations has a baseline requirement for accessibility to be built into new homes, and the housing standards review provides two upper tiers—equivalent to the lifetime homes standard—for local authorities to adopt. On top of that there is also a wheelchair housing standard for accommodation that caters for particular specialist needs.