Inclusive Environments

What Is An Inclusive Environment?

'An inclusive environment is one that can be used by everyone, regardless of age, gender or disability' (ODPM 2003)

How we go about planning and designing our buildings, roads and spaces has a dramatic impact on how they can be used by everyone; many people are still unnecessarily 'disabled' by poorly though out environments. The term 'disability' is a broad one and includes people with physical, sensory or mental impairment. Well designed and inclusive environments also benefit people with small children, elderly people or those with heavy shopping or luggage.

The planning and building regulations processes which are carried out by the council play an important role in making sure new buildings and the space around them are accessible to everyone. 

The Legal Context

Part M of the building regulations deals with access to the use of the buildings. Part M requires that there should be reasonable provision for access to and use of buildings to ensure inclusivity. 

When you are planning your building or development it is easier to design in features to improve accessibility at an early stage. You should consider the following:

  • Is the development accessible for the physically impaired with level thresholds (i.e. no steps); appropriate door and corridor widths and manoeuvring space for those in a wheelchair?
  • Are there enough parking spaces for those with disabilities? Are they located in the most appropriate place? Are they the right size with transfer bays either side and can you get to the pavement easily?
  • How accessible is the development by public transport?
  • Can contrasting surface materials be used to help those with visual impairments? Are there hazards (e.g. bollards; seats; steps) which need to be highlighted?
  • Are signs and other information clear and legible for those with visual impairment?

What Is An Access Statement?

An access statement is your commitment to ensuring inclusive design. 

In your access statement you should explain the following:

  • What has been your approach to inclusive design in your proposal?
  • The key elements of your proposal to ensure inclusivity, including any constraints
  • The sources of guidance and advice you have used

Although developments must meet the requirements of part M they are only minimum standards and do not guarantee fully inclusive environments. Since May 2004 it has been a recommendation of part M that an access statement be submitted with all non-domestic building regulation applications. 

Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (the DDA) it is unlawful for employers to discriminate against disabled people by treated them less favourably for a reason related to their disability. The DDA may require the removal or modification of physical features of buildings to meet this duty - provided it is reasonable.

The adopted Wyre Forest District Local Plan requires all new development to be designed to be accessible by all members of the community (policy D.1). The council has also adopted design quality supplementary planning guidance which promotes improved design of buildings and places and also contains advice of inclusivity.

What Can You Do? 

If you are submitting a building regulations application you will be asked to submit an access statement; you will also be asked to submit an access statement at the time of submitting a planning application which requires you to explain how you have addressed the issue of inclusivity. This applies to all proposals to which the public have access. 

Information Sources

Planning and Access for Disabled People - A Good Practice Guide (ODPM) 

Inclusive Mobility (Dept. Of Transport) 

Wyre Forest District Local Plan

Planning Guidance

Disability Rights Commission

Centre for Accessible Environments