Sheron on Building Better Building Beautiful commission
It’s disappointing that the report fails to highlight the need for inclusive and accessible design to meet the needs for older and disabled people. It’s now vital that the government’s response includes action to consult on accessible housing standards.
Today, the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission report was released and its aims are to promote health, well-being and sustainable growth. For a report that is designed to promote health, it was surprising that there was no mention of accessible housing which is a critical element of ‘building better’.
This report places a welcome spotlight on the quality of new places that fosters a sense of belonging and wellbeing. But beauty without considered functionality falls short of the brief. It’s vital that goals around beauty are not separated or pitched against the need for buildings that work for everyone. What’s the point of beautiful buildings that are inaccessible to 1 in 5 of the population?
Whilst we are disappointed that this final report misses the opportunity to promote inclusive design as part of what makes places better, we do welcome its recommendations to overhaul the way permitted development rights work. In addition to minimum space standards we believe that long term functionality is enhanced if homes are accessible and adaptable from the outset.
There is also merit to the call for greater democracy at the heart of planning. We would want to ensure that government emphasise the need to fully consult with the widest range of people, including older and disabled people. This will guard against any unintended consequences of design guidance and local requirements that exclude them rather than include everyone.
Whilst the government considers its response to this report, they need to now urgently get on with the promised consultation on accessible housing. When the people at the highest level place a stronger focus on accessible housing we might begin to see real change for disabled people.