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When a new building is proposed, or when planning permission is required for the alteration or change of use of an existing building, it is desirable for the developer to consider the needs of disabled people. The provision of suitable access for disabled people to buildings open to the public can be one of the factors to be taken into account by local planning authorities when granting planning permission.
The sphere of planning control is limited. Section 76 of the Town and Country
Planning Act 1990 and Planning Policy Guidance place a duty on the Local Planning
Authority to draw applicants' attention to their statutory obligations. Resolving
problems by negotiation is always preferable, but if appropriate the planning
authority may impose conditions requiring access provision for disabled people.
Conditions attached to planning permissions which have no relevance to planning
matters are not acceptable under planning law.
Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, as amended by the Planning and Compensation Act 1991, allows the use of a legal agreement by which planning requirements are achieved. Circular 1/97 Planning Obligations lays down the general policy for any Section 106 agreements. It states: "As for conditions, they should be relevant to planning and directly related to the proposed development if they are to influence a decision on a planning application. In addition they should only be sought where they are necessary to make a proposal acceptable in land use planning terms."
Planning policy guidance advises against the use of planning legislation to secure objectives achievable under other legislation. When a development is proposed, there will often be meetings between the Local Planning Authority and the developer to discuss various aspects of the application. In the course of these negotiations there is likely to be consideration given to meeting the needs of disabled people. Some Local Authorities have a designated Access Officer, who is the liaison point on issues relating to their interests.
Some new developments do not require Building Regulations approval, particularly
when it affects the setting of buildings rather than the buildings themselves.
Where there is clear planning need to do so, it may be appropriate to impose
a condition to ensure adequate access for disabled people.
The Code of Practice recommends:
The internal layout and design of a building are not normally matters to be considered when a planning application is determined, being chiefly met by Building Regulations. However, the planning of the spaces around new buildings to which the public will have access may be particularly important in ensuring accessibility for disabled people.
Where planning consent is sought for alterations or a change of use to an existing building, the scope for an applicant to undertake adaptations to provide access and facilities at reasonable cost may be limited. This is particularly so if the building is leased or divided between different occupiers. Wherever possible, negotiations should be conducted with applicants to gain access improvements.
Of particular note are shop fronts where the presumption should always be to
provide a full and proper provision for access by disabled people (see 6.19
According to circumstances, appropriate provision can include:
In the case of planning applications relating to more than one building, there may be a need to ensure that there is a suitable route for disabled people between the buildings and to the main entrance of those buildings. An example might be a multi-level shopping centre and an associated car park building where a pedestrian link between buildings is proposed.
fact sheet 3.2
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