Planning Portal

PPS 3: Access, Movement and Parking
Policy AMP 1

Policy AMP 1 Creating an Accessible Environment  
The Department’s aim is to create a more accessible environment for everyone. Accordingly developers should take account of the specific needs of people with disabilities and others whose mobility is impaired in the design of new development.
Where appropriate, the external layout of development will be required to incorporate all or some of the following:
  • facilities to aid accessibility e.g. provision of dropped kerbs and tactile paving etc, together with the removal of any unnecessary obstructions;
  • convenient movement along pathways and an unhindered approach to buildings;
  • pedestrian priority to facilitate pedestrian movement within and between land uses; and
  • ease of access to reserved car parking, public transport facilities and taxi ranks.
The development of a new building open to the public, or to be used for employment or education purposes, will only be permitted where it is designed to provide suitable access for all, whether as customers, visitors or employees. In such cases the Department will operate a presumption in favour of a level approach from the boundary of the site to the building entrance and the use of steps, ramps or mechanical aids will only be permitted where it is demonstrated that these are necessary.
The Department will also seek to ensure that access to existing buildings and their surroundings is improved as opportunities arise through alterations, extensions and changes of use.
The Department may require the submission of an Access Statement to accompany development proposals.

Justification and Amplification

5.1 The Department is committed to improving opportunities for the mobility of those who are socially excluded and in greatest need. The changing state of our built environment - whether by new development, redevelopment or the upgrading and refurbishment of existing buildings - provides an opportunity to secure a more accessible environment for everyone. In assessing development proposals the Department will therefore seek to facilitate improved accessibility for all people, and in particular will require that the specific needs of people with disabilities and others whose mobility is impaired be addressed.
5.2 The needs of disabled people are explicitly recognised in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) Opens link in a new browser window. This legislation has introduced measures to make it unlawful to discriminate against disabled people and with the introduction of the final phase of the Act1 service providers are now obliged to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to remove or overcome physical barriers to access2.
5.3 The integration of good accessibility in all aspects of design will benefit everyone in society through a better thought out, easier and more accessible environment3 and the matter should be considered at an early stage in the design process. The quality of such access is just as important as its availability. For example suitable access should be provided for all through the main entrance of a building to ensure that everyone’s dignity is respected.
5.4 There is also a need to ensure that special attention is paid to areas outside buildings. The siting of buildings and the layout of associated car parking, vehicular access and circulation roads can often act as a barrier to convenient movement. Development should therefore be designed to facilitate ease of access for all pedestrians and wheelchair users, not only to the building entrance but also from the pedestrian environment, streets and spaces around buildings and where necessary should provide for priority for such movement over vehicles.
5.5 The designer of a new building should seek as far as possible to meet the Department’s presumption of providing a level approach from site boundary to the building entrance. The detailed design features for access into the building, such as a level threshold, remains a matter for consideration under the Building Regulations.
5.6 It is recognised that many existing buildings were not designed with disabled people in mind. Accordingly it may not always be possible for development involving the alteration or change of use of an existing building which is open to the public to provide level access. In such cases there will be a presumption that suitable access for all should be incorporated as far as reasonably possible. Designing suitable access in these circumstances may call for imagination and creativity.
5.7 In the case of historic or listed buildings, if a flexible and pragmatic approach is taken, it should often be possible to plan suitable access for all without compromising the building’s special interest or character.

Access Statements

5.8 Where appropriate, the Department may require the submission of an Access Statement to accompany a development proposal for a buildings open to the public, or to be used for employment or education purposes. The preparation of such a statement can help create buildings and places which are accessible and inclusive.
5.9 Where an Access Statement is required to accompany a planning application it should identify:
  • The philosophy and approach to inclusive design;
  • The key issues of the particular scheme; and
  • The sources of advice and guidance used.
5.10 In the case of existing buildings, particularly historic buildings, such a statement would enable a designer / developer to identify the constraints posed by the existing structure and its immediate environment and to explain how these have been overcome.
5.11 Further information on designing for a more accessible environment is set out in the Department’s guide ‘Access for All Opens link in a new browser window’.
1 On 1st October 2004 the final phase of the Disability Discrimination Act – Part III became law.
2 Further advice on this matter is set out in the DDA Code of Practice ‘Rights of Access Goods, Facilities, Services and Premises’ produced by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and which is available at www.equalityni.org Opens link in a new browser window
3 See the Centre for Accessible Environments (CAE) Opens link in a new browser window at www.cae.org.uk for design advice. CAE is an information provider on how the built environment can best be made or modified to achieve inclusion by design.
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