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Planning For the Future – Habinteg response

Today (6 August 2020) the Government have published their vision for reform of the planning system in a white paper entitled ‘Planning for the future’.

Habinteg campaigns for more effective planning rules and building regulations to ensure an increase in the supply of accessible and adaptable homes. Here Habinteg’s Director of Strategy and External Affairs, and tenant Kerry Thompson provide an initial response to the government’s proposals.

Habinteg director of strategy and external affairs, Nic Bungay, said:

“We have just experienced a sharp reminder during lockdown of just how critical the quality of housing is to all our health and wellbeing.  Last month the ONS published data showing that just 9% of homes in England provide even the most basic access features. So with an estimated 400,000 disabled people living in homes that are neither accessible nor adapted, it’s vital that planning reforms deliver rapid gains in the number of accessible and adaptable new homes.

The White paper speaks about the need for new homes to be beautiful and sustainable. But to make this vision a reality, the proposals must be underpinned by a national commitment to housing design standards that deliver accessibility and adaptability in order to meet the needs of older and disabled people.

It is not enough to assess the equality of access to review planning applications in broad terms, we must evaluate what the overall impact of reforms will be on the likely quality and design of homes that get built.

There is little point in having a home that is deemed to be ‘beautiful’ if its practical usage by future occupants is limited. Similarly the sustainability and environmental impact of a home cannot be maximised unless the need for future adaptations is also minimised and designed for from the outset.

So while we welcome the overall aim of speeding up delivery of new homes we would like to see much more detail on how the new system would promote and safeguard their quality and long term sustainability."

Commenting on the white paper, wheelchair user and Habinteg tenant, Kerry Thompson said:

“It’s depressing for me to not see a single mention of accessible housing or even disabled people in the consultation document. 

“The white paper highlights ‘beauty’ throughout:  but what’s the point of beautiful buildings if disabled people are denied access to them?  This looks like a missed opportunity to promote planning for a more inclusive future.

“Being a wheelchair user myself, it somewhat made me feel forgotten about.  We urgently need a spotlight shone on accessible housing because it’s easy to forget about the importance of them when they’re not spoken about."

You can read the full white paper here.

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