Developers invited to consult on raising accessibility standards in new homes
Later than originally planned, the Government has opened a consultation on raising the minimum standards for accessibility in new homes.
As we reported back in 2019, the Government pledged to make new homes more accessible and its consultation document builds on this, highlighting how critical the quality and suitability of peoples’ homes has been during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Of five options proposed in the consultation, three broadly point to the standard being raised from the existing minimum ‘visitable dwelling’ requirement to the higher ‘accessible and adaptable dwellings’ category of Approved Document M Volume 4.
What will be the new requirements should standards be raised?
We covered the differences between the three categories of accessible dwelling used by Approved Document M Volume 4 in this blog here. We also went into greater detail outlining some more of the practical aspects of designing a Category 2 home in this article.
M4(1): Visitable Dwellings: sets out the basic, mandatory minimum level of access standards for all new homes. Guidance is given on level access, level thresholds, door and corridor widths, entrance level WCs and accessible heights for controls.
M4(2): Accessible and Adaptable Dwellings: sets a higher standard for accessible homes, and is most likely to represent the minimum standards required following the consultation. This standard, broadly equivalent to the older Lifetime Homes Standard, is optionally specified by some local authorities in certain situations. It requires enhanced accessibility in circulation spaces and sanitary provision (bathrooms) and the ability to make homes more easily adaptable over time for a wide range of occupants, including older people, those with reduced mobility and some wheelchair users.
M4(3): Wheelchair User Dwellings: sets a standard for wheelchair accessible homes. In this instance it can be a requirement for either a wheelchair adaptable home (which includes design features to make a home easy to convert to be fully wheelchair accessible) or a wheelchair accessible home (which includes the most common features required by wheelchair users). It also includes use of any private outdoor spaces, parking and communal facilities.
What are the policy options being proposed?
The consultation outlines five broad approaches to raising the accessibility standards for new homes.
- Consider how recently revised planning policy on the use of optional technical standards impacts on delivery of accessible housing.
- To mandate the current M4(2) requirement in Building Regulations as a minimum standard for all new homes, with M4(1) applying by exception only where M4(2) is impractical and unachievable (eg a new build flat above a garage). M4(3) would apply where there is a local planning policy in place in which a need has been identified and evidenced.
- Remove M4(1) altogether, so that all new homes will have to at least have the accessible and adaptable features of an M4(2) home. M4(3) would apply where there is a local planning policy in place in which a need has been identified and evidenced. This would mean that no new homes could be built as M4(1).
- To mandate the current M4(2) requirement in Building Regulations as a minimum standard for all new homes with M4(1) applying by exception only. A set percentage of M4(3) homes would also need to be applied in all areas. So rather than local authorities setting a local planning policy for the provision of M4(3), a defined and constant percentage would apply to all new housing.
- Change the content of the mandatory technical standard. This could be done by upgrading the statutory guidance to create a revised M4(1) minimum standard. This revised standard could be pitched between the existing requirements of M4(1) and M4(2), adding more accessible features into the minimum standard.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government consultation will run until 1st December 2020. Builders and developers are invited to respond here.
Please Note: Every care was taken to ensure the information in this article was correct at the time of publication. Any written guidance provided does not replace the reader’s professional judgement and any construction project should comply with the relevant Building Regulations or applicable technical standards. However, for the most up to date LABC Warranty technical guidance please refer to your Risk Management Surveyor and the latest version of the LABC Warranty technical manual.