How we go about planning and designing our buildings, roads and spaces has a dramatic impact on how they can be used by everyone, regardless of age, gender or disability.
To ensure that access is considered at the earliest possible stage in the development process, and to ensure that the facilities are integrated in an inclusive manner, designers and developers are recommended to produce an ‘Access Statement’ as part of their Planning and / or Building Regulation applications.
The Access Statement should clearly identify:
- The philosophy and approach to inclusive design being adopted
- The key issues of the particular scheme including any environmental restraints
- The source of advice and guidance used
- How the principles of inclusive design have been implemented into the scheme
- How inclusion will be maintained and managed once the building is in use
The exact form of the Access Statement will depend upon the size, complexity and nature of the proposed development, and may, therefore, vary considerably.
The recommendation to provide an Access Statement is introduced in Approved Document M (2004 Edition). However, recent guidance on access in the planning system (‘Planning and Access for Disabled People – A Good Practice Guide’)* recommends provision of an Access Statement at the Planning stage. The Access Statement is an attempt to encourage designers and developers to consider access issues at the earliest possible stage of the development process. It is also a useful tool to encourage innovation and flexibility in design approach.
The compilation of an Access Statement should begin at the pre-planning stage. It is intended to be a ‘living document’ that grows in detail as the project develops. In this way it will help to provide an audit trail to demonstrate whether particular matters have been considered adequately and with the benefit of the client and any future occupiers where such matters are material to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.
By considering access issues for all members of society at the earliest opportunity steps can be taken to ensure facilities are suitable for use, and accessible by everyone. The process will also help inclusive design proposals to be fully integrated into the design from the beginning rather than considered towards the end of the process when only ineffective, compromise solutions can be achieved.
*Office of the Deputy Prime Minister