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Last edited 29 Jul 2021
Access and inclusion in the built environment: policy and guidance
The need to address inclusive design from concept stage onwards is embedded in the planning process within London far more so than many other parts of the country. The key areas for consideration for designers are:
- The London Plan.
- The Equality Act 2010.
- The Building Regulations.
- The Principles of Inclusive Design.
- The Olympic and Paralympic Games precedent.
- The National Planning Policy Framework.
The London Plan 2011
In preparing the policies of The London Plan, the London Mayor has had regard to the principle that there should be equality of opportunity for all people. The policies therefore seek to tackle the issues of deprivation and inequalities amongst Londoners.
- Policy 1.1 of the London Plan states an objective to create ...a city of diverse, strong, secure and accessible neighbourhoods. Inclusive design and the need to tackle inequality is implicit in all aspects of the London Plan and is specifically mentioned in a number of policy areas, as outlined below:
- Policy 3.1: Ensuring equal life chances. The mayor is committed to ensuring equal life chances for all Londoners. Development proposals should have regard to the Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG): Accessible London and other guidance produced by the Mayor.
- Policy 3.8: Housing choice. All new housing is built to The Lifetime Homes standards and ten per cent of new housing is designed to be wheelchair accessible, or easily adaptable for residents who are wheelchair users.
- Policy 3.16: Protection and enhancement of social infrastructure. Social infrastructure should be accessible to all sections of the community including disabled and older people.
- Policy 3.19: Sports facilities. Inequality in access to sport and physical activity should be addressed.
- Policy 4.6: Support and enhance the provision for arts, culture and entertainment. Cultural developments should be accessible to all sectors of the community.
- Policy 6.13: Parking. The provision of parking for disabled people is highlighted within this policy, including within car free developments.
- Policy 7.1: Lifetime neighbourhoods. People should have a good quality environment in an active and supportive local community based on the lifetime neighbourhoods principles
- Policy 7.2: Inclusive environment. The Mayor will require all new development in London to achieve the highest standards of accessible and inclusive design.
- Policy 7.5: Public realm: London’s public spaces should be secure, accessible, easy to understand and maintain.
- Policy 7.6: Architecture. Buildings and structures should meet the principles of inclusive design.
Olympic Legacy Supplementary Planning Guidance, July 2012
The Mayor has also published Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) in relation to the Olympic Legacy. This guidance includes an appendix focused on inclusive design setting out what is expected of developers.
The SPG promotes the delivery of lifetime neighbourhoods and stable sustainable communities that they define as safe and inclusive, well planned, built and run, and offer equality of opportunity and good services for all'.
The Supplementary Planning Guidance: Planning for Equality and Diversity in London relates to the implementation of policies that seek to address the needs of different communities in London. The themes addressed include:
- Urban design and public realm: linked to crime, personal safety, mobility and accessibility.
- Accessible, inclusive and safe environments: linked to accessibility, personal safety, discrimination and social exclusion.
- Access to employment and training opportunities: linked to social exclusion, discrimination and poverty.
- Access to open space and recreational areas.
- Provision of leisure and recreational facilities.
Accessible London: Achieving an Inclusive Environment (2014)
This SPG provides guidance on the implementation of London Plan Policy 7.2 An inclusive environment and of other policies in the Plan with specific reference to inclusive design . Accessible London: Achieving an Inclusive Environment (2014) aims to promote social inclusion and seeks to help eliminate discrimination.
Under Section 149 of The Equality Act 2010, planning authorities such as the GLA and London Legacy Development Corporation, through the execution of their functions, have a duty to have regard to the need to:
- Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation
- Advance equality of opportunity
- Foster good relations between communities
The Equality Act consolidates the three previous duties covering race, disability and gender, bringing them together into a single duty, and extends it to cover the ‘protected characteristics’ of age, sexual orientation, religion or belief, pregnancy and maternity, and gender reassignment.
Part M of the Building Regulations sets out legal minimum requirements for promoting access to and use of buildings. Whereas previous versions of the Regulations focused on the specific needs of disabled people, the 2004 edition of Approved Document M promotes an approach to inclusive design that reflects the needs of all people.
The Principles of Inclusive Design
Published by CABE in 2006, The Principles of Inclusive Design stressed that inclusive design is fundamental to good design. Acknowledging that the way places are designed affects our ability to move, see, hear and communicate effectively, the document states that inclusive design is about making places which everyone can use. By removing the barriers that create undue effort and separation, it enables everyone to participate equally, confidently and independently in everyday activities.
- Places people at the heart of the design process.
- Acknowledges diversity and difference.
- Offers choice where a single design solution cannot accommodate all users.
- Provides for flexibility in use.
- Provides buildings and environments that are convenient and enjoyable to use for everyone.
The Olympic and Paralympic Games precedent
The Olympic Delivery Authority’s (ODA) delivery of the venues and infrastructure required to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games has set an important precedent in terms of exceeding legal minimum access requirements and incorporating best practice inclusive design. London’s winning bid to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games set out a commitment to delivering ‘the most accessible Games ever’.
As part of this the ODA developed the ODA Inclusive Design Standards (2008). These are award winning standards which principally apply to the Olympic Park and venues during the 2012 Games, but which cover many issues relevant to the legacy schemes. As such, the parklands, public realm and venues inherited after 2012 have been built to a high standard of inclusive design. The Legacy Community Scheme planning application made a continued commitment to the provision of an inclusive environment and the development of inclusive neighbourhoods.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) sets out the government’s planning policies for England and how these are expected to be applied. A large number of Planning Policy Statements and Planning Policy Guidance have been replaced by the framework (although unless specifically revoked by the framework, existing policies remain effective).
Good design is a key aspect of sustainable development. It is indivisible from good planning and should contribute positively to making places better for people. The NPPF highlights that it is important to plan positively for the achievement of high quality and inclusive design for all development, including individual buildings, public and private spaces and wider area development schemes.
The NPPF notes that although visual appearance and the architecture of individual buildings are very important factors, securing high quality and inclusive design goes beyond aesthetic considerations. Therefore, planning policies and decisions should address the connections between people and places and the integration of new development into the natural, built and historic environment.
Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Accessibility in the built environment.
- Accessibility index.
- Access audit.
- Accessible London.
- Approved document M.
- Balance for Better: Why lack of diversity is an issue for everyone.
- Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission interim report.
- Building Regulations.
- Changing lifestyles.
- Equal opportunities policy.
- Equality Act.
- Essential principles, Creating an accessible and inclusive environment.
- Hearing loss and the built environment.
- Housing policy.
- Inclusive design.
- ISO 23234 and ISO 21542 accessibility and security standards.
- National Disability Strategy.
- Planning for disabilities as the population ages.
- Special educational needs: an analysis of the necessities for inclusion
- The role of the engineer in creating inclusive cities.
- The London Plan.
- The Lifetime Homes.
- Supplementary Planning Guidance in relation to the Olympic Legacy.
- Supplementary Planning Guidance: Planning for Equality and Diversity in London.
- Supplementary Planning Guidance: Achieving an Inclusive Environment (2014).
- The Equality Act 2010.
- The Principles of Inclusive Design.
- ODA Inclusive Design Standards (2008).
- Design Council Inclusive Design Hub
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