Design and Development Control Guidelines
4 CONSIDERATE DESIGN FOR THE LESS AGILE
4.1.1 The Council is keen to provide and encourage opportunities for all sections of the borough's population to have access to housing, jobs, community and recreational facilities. Policies G5, H13 and ENV42 of the UDP underline the Council's particular expectations with regard to people whose movement is hampered by poor health or disability. The Building Regulations were expanded in 1991 to take some account of the needs and abilities of people with impaired sight or hearing. Their coverage was further extended over the 1998-2004 period to cover the design of new dwellings and conversions that result in a propertys use as a shop, institution, public building or hotel.
4.1.2 The purpose of these guidelines is to set out those particular aspects of design for the less agile to be taken into account by the Council when determining applications for planning permission which fall within the scope of Policy ENV42. Considerate designs will be welcomed even in respect of projects to which the Building Regulations do not strictly apply and applicants are invited to submit Access Statements (M) describing how the needs of people with various disabilities are going to be met or why a particular requirement of Part M cannot, in the applicants view, be met.
4.1.3 As Building Regulation authority and through other licensing powers the Council can secure a degree of accessibility for less agile members of the community. The principles set out in Part M of the Building Regulations are binding in respect of projects defined in those Regulations. The following policy guidelines supplement rather than duplicate information already published within Part M. The guidelines are presented to aid and encourage good practice over and above the minimal requirements of the 1970 Act and the 2004 Building Regulations.
4.1.4 The Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970, as amended in 1976, requires most non-domestic developments to make provision, where practicable and reasonable, for the needs of disabled users (Section 4 of the Act refers). The Building Regulations 2000-2004 (Part M) set out statutory minimum standards (mostly dimensional) that govern the design of dwellings, offices, shops, factories, educational and cultural establishments, together with all other buildings to which the public is admitted (whether on payment or otherwise). Extensions to non-domestic buildings, or to dwellings built in accord with Part M of the Regulations with a ground floor element, should also meet or exceed the standards now set by these Regulations. A planned alteration to a dwelling must be carried out such that Part M compliance does not suffer. Likewise, an extension of a dwelling need not itself comply with Part M, but it must not render that dwelling less compliant with Part M.
4.1.5 Service providers and employers must have regard to their further obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 as amended, the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001, and supplementary regulations. Conformity with that legislation entails some reconfiguration of doorways, porches, lobbies, ramps, lifts and stairways together with internal furniture, signage and switches and, sometimes, alterations to management and staff performance to avoid discriminatory practices. Although these brief guidelines may assist readers in meeting the requirements of that Act, that is not their purpose and they tend to concentrate on works likely to need planning permission. Please contact the Disability Rights Commission (www.drc.org.uk) for more comprehensive advice as to the implications of the Disability Discrimination Act and how these may affect any business or voluntary organisation.
4.1.6 The Greater London Authority is expected soon to publish Supplementary Planning Guidance advocating a high degree of respect for people with disabilities whenever buildings or places are being re-designed. This will address most of the matters raised by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in his Good Practice Guide of March 2003. That national guide may be read on the Departments web site and it describes, among other things, the benefits and scope of an Access Statement.
4.1.7 The Council recognises that the national and regional context within which this guideline has been prepared has changed significantly whilst the UDP Review was underway. It is likely that this Guideline will therefore need some revision in the near future to reflect changing national expectations, community views and regional experience.
4.2 Approach and surroundings
4.2.1 Unless the approach to a building is safe, comfortable, well-maintained and easy to use it is likely to deter a proportion of potential users. Less agile individuals, for example, children, wheelchair riders, pregnant women, those moving luggage or bulky goods, and all with impaired sight or mobility, will particularly appreciate obstacle-free, firm, clear approaches to a building. The following aspects of a planning proposal will be considered by the Council. Those marked (M) are also addressed in the Building Regulations.
4.2.2 The width, surface treatment and gradients of ramps and paths. Raised path edges are helpful to cane users. Slippery surfaces or crossfall gradients above 2.5% (1 in 40) ought to be avoided. (M)
4.2.3 Adequate level platforms where users can pause or draw breath above and between flights of stairs or sections of ramp. (M)
4.2.4 Alternative stepped approaches, the visibility of step edges and the use of ridged paving within 800mm of the top of a flight of steps. Open risers and treads shorter than 280mm must be avoided and risers 150 to 170mm high are desirable. Where treads taper, their width should be measured 270mm from the narrower end (M).
4.2.5 Kerbs and grippable firm handrails alongside steps and ramps are vital and should continue 300mm beyond the lowest and highest risers (M). Low-level handrails can assist and protect children.
4.2.6 Suitable benches and/or support rails in locations where waiting or queuing can be expected. Seats some 400-500mm above ground level with arm rests are preferable and will be usable by more individuals.
4.2.7 The limited and meaningful use of bollards in logical rather than haphazard arrangements.
4.2.8 Designs that prevent carelessly parked vehicles (and their doors) from blocking prime approach or escape routes, i.e. reducing the available width of a path below 900mm.
4.2.9 Space should be provided within vehicle parking areas for rear and side transfers between wheelchairs and cars or light vans (M). Hatched areas 1.2 metres wide between standard bays marked and signed with the wheelchair symbol (defined in BS 8300) may be appropriate. One side transfer space can serve two parking bays.
4.2.10 Designs should avoid nuisances such as overhanging branches, signs, blinds, canopies, awnings, flues or casement windows within 2.1 metres of a walking surface or cycleway, in the interests of safety. Where a path runs closely alongside a building even outward-opening doors can constitute a hazard and surface changes or guardrails may be desirable (M). Surface variations in colour or texture can also alert blind and partially-sighted pedestrians to imminent hazards such as traffic, overhanging obstacles and the underside of ramps and stairs.
4.2.11 Where appropriate, space should be provided for prams, push-chairs or cycles to be left or padlocked, preferably with a degree of shelter.
4.2.12 Dropped kerbs no steeper than 6% (1 in 17) are recommended wherever necessary, including consideration for passers-by not needing to enter a site, perhaps having to cross a private road or driveway.
>4.2.13 Drainage slots should be aligned across the main direction of pedestrian movement and be no wider than 13mm to prevent wheels or canes from becoming trapped.
4.3 External equipment
4.3.1 Automatic facilities outside banks or kiosks can often speed-up transactions. Card-operated machines will be more convenient to some disabled users, including wheelchair riders, than coin-operated equipment. The following guidelines address these issues:
- Alarm buttons or handles, bell-pushes, petrol pump, entry phone, cash dispenser, ticket or stamp machine control-buttons and card-slots should generally be within 1170mm of the level surface providing access for users, so that they are within the reach of wheelchair riders.
- At filling stations, the design and layout of pumps, islands, forecourts, shops, counters and car-wash controls deserve particular care, the aim being to enable safe and confident use by wheelchair-using motorists. Dropped kerbs will be necessary between the forecourt and the cash desk/shop/kiosk areas of a filling station. Where designs prevent easy access, an intercom system should be installed so that customers can alert staff to their particular needs when parked next to any petrol pump.
- Specialised services for people with disabilities may be secured with a RADAR lock (The Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation, www.radar.org.uk). All such locks can be operated by people issued with a standard RADAR key.
4.3.2 Outdoor seating areas, for example at sports or other leisure facilities, need to be designed with consideration for the needs of children, wheelchair users and other less agile individuals in mind. Again, Part M of the Building Regulations and BS8300 include useful advice and Sport England or a regional arts organisation might be able to suggest other facilities where design solutions can be inspected. Remember that some wheelchair users will want to transfer to a fixed seat during the course of a match or performance and that many will want to sit where they can talk easily to a relative or companion. Forced segregation would not represent considerate design. A number of removable seats can add flexibility to a grandstand, auditorium or dining area, enabling extra wheelchair riders to be easily accommodated. Allowance should also be made for people of large stature.
4.4 The entrance to a building
4.4.1 The principal entrance to a building is crucial in establishing its image in the mind of its users. Difficulty experienced at this entrance may quickly deter further exploration. The Building Regulations are fairly thorough on the matter of entrances and lobbies. They state quite plainly that alterations to non-domestic buildings should never reduce the accessibility or usefulness of an existing building to people with disabilities. When a building is being extended, the chance to remove barriers to movement in the original building, or relocate functions to a ground floor, is often worth taking. Such intentions can reasonably be included in a submitted Access Statement (M). A few other issues are highlighted in these guidance notes.
4.4.2 Clear doorway widths above 800mm are important. Broad single doors (subject to weight considerations) will generally be preferred to a pair of double doors neither of which allows room for wheelchair use (M). Designs must permit wheelchair users to safely operate a door. The Building Regulations (M) indicate how doors should be offset in narrow gangways, porches or corridors to allow diagonal movement through the doorway by a self-propelled wheelchair-user. Where wheelchair riders are expected to close doors behind them, or generally be steered by others, then corridors should be wider than those illustrated in the Part M document as meeting minimum standards.
4.4.3 Powerful door-closers (having a pressure above 20 Newtons, or 15 Newtons if a fire door in a building with overnight accommodation) should be avoided, as should all but the largest models of revolving doors (M). Door-holders wired into a fire alarm circuit are a recommended option since these keep a door in the open position unless the alarms are triggered; delayed-action door closers are another alternative.
4.4.4 Thoughtfully placed glazed panels within a door will ensure that oncoming pedestrians, including children, are open to view (M). If plate glass dominates doors, facades or partitions, it should meet safety standards that are elaborated in Part N of the Regulations, in particular some form of signing at both adult and children's eye level is advisable. Glazing should not extend to within 380mm of any door threshold since this area may suffer impact damage from foot-rests, pushchairs or trolleys.
4.4.5 Door handles should be easy to hold, rounded with good of leverage, be robust, conspicuous and set some 900 -1040 mm above the door threshold. Clearances of 50 mm or more are necessary between the handle and vertical surfaces (i.e. the door and its jamb). Where possible, users should be able to push a door instead of pulling it towards them.
4.4.6 The use of surfaces that contrast with each other in brightness and texture should form part of an integrated decorative scheme that enables people to use the facilities independently and indicates potential hazards. Contrasts in brightness are more important than colour variations in helping visually impaired people distinguish between different surfaces and appreciate the scale and function of various spaces and rooms. High gloss finishes and abnormally vibrant colour schemes should generally be avoided where visual perception is important.
4.4.7 The chance of water penetration beneath an external door will be reduced where a porch, canopy or overhanging eaves provides shelter and ground surfaces are laid with care to avoid ponding. Thresholds below 15 mm with curved nosings are required (M). Gradients steeper than 5% (1 in 20) should be treated as ramps with appropriate kerbs and handrails (M).
4.4.8 Entrance routes obviously act as escape routes in times of emergency and some doorways will function specifically as points of egress. Designers must anticipate that some disabled people will be assisted in leaving the building. Some occupants may clearly be injured by an incident that triggers the need to evacuate and they too will need help in using stairs or suitable lifts. Parts of larger buildings may therefore need to be designed as "refuges" where people may wait in relative safety during a staged evacuation.
4.5 An integrated approach
4.5.1 The design of the exterior environment should be well integrated with the design of the interior of a building. Consistent attention to these matters will cater for all sections of the community and demonstrate Inclusive Design.
4.5.2 To achieve this, advice in the ODPM Good Practice Guide and the Building Regulations of 2004 is that an Access Statement be submitted with a planning application. This statement, it is anticipated, will evolve through the consent process, to include both the exterior of the building and its surroundings as well as internal layout.
4.6 Further design guidance
4.6.1 There are many matters of detailed design of buildings and public places, which are important to people with disabilities. Reference to British Standard BS8300 is strongly recommended. A qualified Access Auditor may be located using a national register that can be found on-line at www.nrac.org.uk. A separate Design Advice Note will be published by the Council to highlight these matters and recommend best practice.
4.6.2 Aspects to be covered by this additional advice include baby or child care facilities; bathroom design (e.g. in nursing homes or hotels); canopies above walkways or entrance doors; changing rooms (in shops, theatres or sports halls); gardens and lounges in sheltered housing schemes; the attributes of lifts; sites for picnics, fishing or other casual recreation; restaurant seating; and waiting rooms.