Relaxing planning rules could limit accessible homes, coalition warns

Relaxing planning regulations in response to COVID-19 could lead to even scarcer accessible housing across the UK, a housing coalition has warned.

The Housing Made for Everyone (HoME) coalition, made up of ten organisations across the housing and charity sectors including the National Housing Federation, the Centre for Ageing Better, and Habinteg, has urged the government to resist developers’ calls to relax planning regulations to aid the UK’s COVID-19 recovery.

In an open letter to the housing minister Christopher Pincher, the coalition said the disruption caused by COVID-19 should not jeopardise the delivery of new accessible homes, which will be essential in future years to house the UK’s ageing population.

Anna Dixon, chief executive of the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “Lack of accessible housing is a major problem in the UK, and we must not let the disruption of the COVID-19 crisis distract the government from its mission to build more suitable homes.

“It is understandable that developers are keen to get back to work quickly but planning restrictions must not be relaxed. We otherwise risk having even more people living in houses that are unsuitable for their needs.”

The coalition says that COVID-19 has ‘shone a light’ on the importance of accessible homes as many people have spent months in homes unsuitable for their physical needs.

According to 2017 figures, there are currently around 1.8 million people with the UK with an accessible housing need, a figure that is only set to grow.

However, the HoME coalition says that under current housing plans, there will be just one new accessible home built for every 15 people over the age of 65 by the year 2030.

The coalition has called on the government to honour its commitment to consult on accessibility standards and implement the ‘accessible and adaptable’ design standard, set out in Building Regulations M4 Category 2, as the regulatory baseline for all new homes.

Sheron Carter, chief executive of Habinteg, commented: “It’s no longer acceptable to knowingly build homes that have in-built barriers and restrictions for disabled and older people. As we emerge from this crisis as a nation it’s time for a change. We have to build better.”

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has been approached for comment.

Image: Habinteg Housing Association flats in Gainsborough Square, Lockleaze, Bristol. Credit: Jaggery/Creative Commons

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