Recently a new requirement has been added to the planning application process. In place of “Design Statements”, that are effectively a written justification of the design of the project, we now have to provide “Design and Access Statements”. These have a new section in which we have to prove that we have considered the accessibility of the project in terms of vehicles, pedestrians and also disability, and that we have built in future proof flexibility.
It is a strange addition. For starters the whole matter of disabled accessibility is not a planning issue but is regulated by Building Control. It is a technical matter, so for Planning to now make it a matter for their consideratrion is a significant extension of their area of authority. Added to which what is meant by making it future proof? Do we have to second guess what the Building regulations might become? Or do we need to plan for what Planning see as the future for accessibility? What can one say beyond “it meets current standards and we think it will be flexibile”? How does one give proof that something so vague has been actively considered?
All in all it appears to be little more than a somewhat cynical exercise in extending Planning authority and in adding another hoop to jump through. This is needed as the planning system is so desperately understaffed and under pressure that any new reason to not accept an application is welcome.