Changing Places - should they be mandatory?

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The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has recently opened consultation for “Changing Places” to be made mandatory in all new public buildings.

Changing Places bathrooms are a larger than average bathroom than standard accessible toilets, which often do not have the right equipment, are not the large enough and do not meet the needs of all disabled people. Further information can be found on http://www.changing-places.org/the_campaign/what_are_changing_places_toilets_.aspx 

The Figures

There are 1300 Changing Places facilities nationwide, which has only increased by 140 new facilities in the last 12 years, since 2007, averaging 11 across the nation per year. According to some government reports, there are 250,000 disabled persons nationally who would benefit from a Changing Places facility. That equates to on Changing Place facility, per 192 persons nationally.

What the Government intends to do

The Government is seeking to improve this by:

  1. Mandatory requirement in legislation in Planning and Building Regulation terminology and stipulated requirements, specifically Part M of the Building Regulations

  2. Provide a £2 million fund for over 100 hospitals to have them installed in existing buildings

The mandatory standards will remove ambiguity on optional requirements, which can at times be taken out on “reasonable provision” arguments. One area which may continue to become an issue, are in historic buildings which are often listed. The consultation seeks that it should be considered to be installed, with the Building Control authority becoming the authority in deciding when it is not possible, to install a Changing Places facility.

This will apply to new buildings, buildings being extended or where a “change of use” application applies, meaning existing public buildings will not be required to change/improve present facilities.

France and Associate’s Comments:

At present, Local Governments can stipulate one of the above requirements in Planning Conditions for housing schemes and new public buildings, IF “it is considered reasonable, proportionate and financially viable”.

What that means is that there is scope for developer to prove that it is not reasonable or financially viable. This can leave a gap in the market, so changes need to be made to legislation in order for it to have a knock on effect on the build environment.

The present requirements which are compulsory fall way short of Changing Places standards, and although the higher standards found in Part M of the Building Regulations are a right step in the right direction, they are often taken out following a value engineering process. Unfortunately, a lot of standards around accessibility – certainly in new housing, remain optional.

With regards to Public Buildings, the Government’s manifesto set out “that where you live, shop, go out, travel or park your car should not be determined by your disability”, and increasing the provision of Changing Places toilets would certainly be a step in the right direction.

The proposed changes which will make it mandatory for designers and developers to include in public buildings, will certainly increase provision.

Have Your Say Here

Get involved and have your say on this consultation, by clicking on the link here - https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/changing-places-toilets