Access to and Use of Buildings
Changes to the requirements of Part M (Building Regulations) affecting dwellings came into force in October 1999, which required all new dwellings to have a reasonable level of accessibility for disabled persons. Provisions must be made for improved circulation space, accessible location of electrical sockets and switches, suitable sanitary conveniences on the ground/entrance floor and a ramped or level approach to the dwelling. The objectives of the new provisions are not intended to ensure that all houses are suitable for a disabled person to live in, but to enable a disabled visitor to the dwelling to be able to do so with reasonable comfort and independence. The provisions will also enable occupants to cope better with reduced mobility and to remain longer in their homes.
Further changes were made to Part M, taking effect from 1 May 2004, reflecting a need for buildings to be accessible to all building users, not just those with a form of disability. This includes persons with children or those carrying shopping or luggage. Technical guidance supporting the new Part M is given in a new version of Approved Document M. The guidance in relation to dwellings, at this stage, remains unchanged. As well as providing more in depth guidance on measures to be taken in designing and constructing accessible buildings the guidance promotes the use of access statements. If the design of a building is to deviate from the guidance in Approved document M an access statement should be submitted to Building Control to demonstrate the reasons for the variance taking account of any compensatory features. These should take account of the philosophy and approach for any particular scheme taking account of the particular issues involved. They will be particularly important for existing buildings and extensions as well as historic buildings. The statement should act for the life of the building being updated as any alterations are made, with records being kept on any decisions made regarding accessibility. This may help with ongoing obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act.
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