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Accessibility: an essential component of healthy homes & communities

What is the Town and Country Planning Association’s (TCPA) Healthy Homes Bill and how does it seek to help us all as we age? TCPA Project Assistant working on the Healthy Homes campaign, Jack Dangerfield, has all the answers.
 

Since 2019, the TCPA has been campaigning for changes to national legislation to raise the standard of new housing, and the association has drafted the Healthy Homes Bill as a demonstration of how to achieve that in practice.

TCPA’s current focus is amending the Building Safety Bill as a first step to transforming how the built environment is regulated so that it contributes positively to people’s health and wellbeing.

The Building Safety Bill, the government’s answer to the Grenfell fire, is currently making its way through Parliament and began its Committee Stage in the House of Lords on 21st February.

The Bill is a unique opportunity to secure healthy buildings that enhance people’s life chances. However, as it stands, the TCPA believes that that opportunity will not be realised because the Bill focuses on a narrow definition of safety, and only for a small number of buildings.

Amendment to the bill

As such, the TCPA is working with Lord Nigel Crisp, a crossbench member of the House of Lords and ex-Chief Executive of the NHS, who - along with Lords Blunkett (Lab), Young of Cookham (Con) and Stunell (Lib Dem) - has tabled an amendment to the Bill.

The amendment clarifies that building ‘safety’ is not just the absence of immediate physical harm (such as from fire), but also includes the consideration of people’s wider health and wellbeing. This obviously includes a wider range of issues relating to accessibility inside and outside the home.

The amendment was debated at the Bill’s committee stage this week and received cross-party support from several Peers. It will now be voted on at the Bill’s Report Stage. 

If adopted, it would be the start of a new approach to the creation of homes and places which meet everyone’s need for a decent home in a healthy neighbourhood.

Overall, the amendment is a first step towards opening up the space for much higher standards on accessibility for all new homes, by switching the system from one which is built around harm mitigation to one that actively pursues health and wellbeing.  

This would be a significant step towards preparing the homes and neighbourhoods we live in for an ageing population while limiting the long-term impact on the NHS and enabling people to live independently for longer.

Accessible home, healthy life

Our Healthy Homes Bill also seeks to create homes that enhance the lives of the people who live there. It aims to transform the regulation of the built environment to ensure that new homes and neighbourhoods support their residents’ health and wellbeing.

Within the Bill are a set of 11 evidence-based ‘principles’, which together define what constitutes a healthy home and neighbourhood. Sitting in primary legislation, these would be the bedrock and overarching framework of the new approach to housing and planning that the bill brings about.

They are simple but empirically robust and have been endorsed by nationally respected organisations such as the National Institute for Health Research and Health Foundation.

One of those principles is that all new homes and their surroundings must be designed to be inclusive, accessible, and adaptable to suit the needs of all – that’s disabled and non disabled people.

Ageing population

There is a wealth of evidence to demonstrate the vital link between accessible homes and people’s physical and mental health.

Accessible homes can help people to remain independent and healthier for longer, which not only vastly improves people’s quality of life but also delivers significant savings for the NHS and social care.

In just 10 years from now, half of all adults will be over the age of 50. As the number of people aged over 50 increases, so does the number of people with accessibility requirements.

With people now spending more time in their homes due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and with more people living longer, the need to ensure that every new home is genuinely accessible, has never been greater.

To learn more about the Healthy Homes campaign, email Dr Daniel Slade at daniel.slade@tcpa.org.uk or visit the TCPA’s website.

About the TCPA
Established in 1899, The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) is the UK’s oldest charity concerned with planning, housing and the environment. The campaign to reform the UK’s planning system to enable everyone to live healthy and prosperous lives.

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