In recent times access statements have become essential for the majority of applications for planning permission and indeed for those submitting for Building Regulation approval.
A statement is a means of explaining the accessibility and inclusive nature of a scheme; they are perhaps more suited to being termed Access Strategies. It is important to note that inclusion is an holistic approach and that those issues which could have a dramatic affect upon the design, location of buildings and costings, need to be considered in the very early stages. So the sooner you start developing the strategy the better.
A strategy starts with the client; what level of access do they require and want? A mission statement is in effect an Access Statement (strategy). This statement then can be developed through briefing, design and construction and into management arrangements. For planning or building control submission, they are often a written statement and preferably supplemented with drawings. Design and the drawn form are often alien to those who are new to planning committees and the general public, whose ability to read technical plans and understand the scale and massing of schemes can be limited.
The benefits are that;
- Concepts can be explained and improve understanding, not only to the general public but where there is a contentious or complex scheme, to professionals alike.
- They are a communication method which is more widely accessible than the drawn form.
- Can be a proving mechanism in terms of outlining the inclusive aspects and meeting the clients obligations;
- but also the failings of a scheme,
- the reasons behind that
- and the compensatory methods that have been put in place to ensure equality in use
A statement can;
- Show how the schemes have met the legal and statutory obligations in access terms.
- Outline the level of inclusivity.
- Record and shows decisions which have been made.
- Outline future actions including management policies.
What is contained within a statement at the various stages will be dependent upon the scale, size, function and complexity of a scheme. Statements can be provided at all stages of the process through to handover, assisting the client with on-going operational considerations. They could contain the following;
- Understanding of the function of the building.
- Any relevant operational implications, out of hours use, dual functions, etc.
- Standards of inclusion, ethos, consultations, criteria or consultant used.
- Vehicular and transport links external to the site.
- Access to social amenities both within and in close proximity to the site (setting the accessible social context).
- Understanding of the influence of external factors, such as topography.
- Infrastructure within the site, including parking, drop off, access between buildings/functions, etc.
- Approach to the site and entrances within the site, including levels, travel distances, lighting, use of wayfinding techniques such as textures and tone (also safety).
- Pedestrian, cycle and vehicular routes and the detailed arrangements of them.
- Relevant amenities within the site (if a large redevelopment) toilets, health, education, leisure, etc.
- Internal arrangements;
- Entrances and reception
- Circulation, horizontal and vertical
- Sanitary and change provision
- Staff facilities
- Functional spaces, bars, curriculum areas, equipment
- Communication, wayfinding, signage, sound enhancement systems
- Evacuation and means of escape
At JSA we can assist clients and design teams through this process, ensuring that any statement relates to the stage and complexity of the building or scheme. For example, often funding bodies require an Access Statement; these may require a considerable amount of detail. The statement will help formulate the approach and advise the team on levels of expectations which have physical or economic considerations.