Architects Slam new GLA Access Guidance

Architects Journal

The plans, set out in draft housing guidance, would force all London homes to have step-free access regardless of what level they are on, removing the flexibility in the current building regulations.

A clause within the Mayor’s Draft Interim Housing Supplementary Guidance states that the ‘optional’ building regulation M4 should be applied to all new homes.

Professionals fear the proposals would see councils demanding that every housing developments over two storeys had a lift.

Although it would be possible for boroughs to relax the requirement, architects are worried the tone of the document will compel most councils to adopt the standard.

Head of housing for Levitt Bernstein, Julia Park, branded the requirement unachievable and untenable and said she had visited the Greater London Authority (GLA) to warn that it was already ‘causing chaos’.

‘The GLA has managed to create yet another policy that they know won’t always be achievable – or even desirable.

‘Our understanding is they are not expecting all homes to have step-free access and accept that some housing typologies, including small, low- rise blocks of flats and double stacked maisonettes remain extremely valuable, so are not being banned, despite the fact that they can’t support the capital or ongoing cost of a lift,’ she said.

Bernstein, added: ‘It’s just a pity they don’t come out and say that instead of hiding behind an ambiguous ‘get out’ clause in the small print.’

Frustrated with the proposed plans, housing architect Peter Barber or Peter Barber Architects, said: ‘If this goes through I’m giving up.’

He warned it would ‘sound the death knell for a lower-rise high-density approach to urban housing and neighbourhoods’ and was a ‘resounding endorsement of the generic corridor apartment building.’

Barber commented: ‘This is a Draconian, pointless, sledgehammer change to policy which has not been thought through.

‘It is policy which plays in to the hands of land grab London’s generic developer and his lazy architect. It will encourage the kind of lumpy middle and high rise apartment blocks which are currently being shoved up all over our city.

He added: ‘[It signals the end] for the kind of sociable street based high density lower rise (4/5 storey) urban neighbourhoods which we should be building in their place.’

Consultation ended on the plans in August.

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