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Equalities Act Vs Part M

Posted by wilkinsoncc on December 13, 2011 at 3:40 AM

Almost 2 years ago to the day AJ published my column warning of the changes to BS8300 and the need for Architects to look carefully at contract conditions to ensure that they don’t fall foul of the DDA (now Equalities’ Act)(http://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/opinion/the-regs-disabled-wcs/5211782.article)

In recent weeks I have seen increased awareness from clients, Councils and Access Officers pushing for the higher standards in new buildings as awareness of BS 8300 continues to grow. This has culminated in CLG releasing a circular letter on the 9th December 2011 on the subject (http://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/opinion/the-regs-disabled-wcs/5211782.article)

This letter clarifies for building control bodies the relationship between the Equality Act 2010 and Part M (Access to and use of buildings) of the Building Regulations 2010.

Compliance with the requirements of Part M does not signify compliance with the much broader obligations and duties set out in the Equality Act. This is a source of frequent misunderstanding.

Part M sets out minimum requirements to ensure that a broad range of people are able to access and use facilities within buildings.

The Equality Act requires reasonable adjustments to be made in relation to accessibility. In practice, this means that due regard must be given to any specific needs of likely building users that might be reasonably met. The letter sets out a 10 year exemption from the need to alter physical features in buildings completed under ADM.

However most Councils planning and access officers (and some private sector clients) are adopting BS8300 as the relevant measure for all new building projects to avoid the need for alterations in 10 years time . Be warned that the standards are much higher - for example the size of a single accessible WC cubicle should be 2.2m x 2m and have a standing height WHB rather than the 2.2 x 1.5m in ADM. If you havent got a copy of BS 8300 yet, theres still time to put it on your Christmas List :)

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