DESIGN | Accessible And Adaptable Homes


5.5.1    Saffron Walden, like all communities, will need to consider and address the needs of the ageing population. These needs will be addressed through provision of infrastructure and the ‘right kind’ of urban design which will ensure social inclusion and maintain the safety of individuals as they age.

5.5.2    The NHS regularly publishes statistics on the numbers of in-patients who are medically fit to be released from hospital, but who cannot be because their homes are not suitable for their recovery process. This unnecessary use of NHS hospital beds carries a huge cost to society.

5.5.3    Care homes provide high levels of care, but are expensive to run. Many elderly people will be able to remain in their own homes if the homes are adequately designed for them to do so. This will reduce the financial pressure and capacity issues in the care sector.

5.5.4    Research and recommendations from the Homes and Communities agency “Housing our Ageing Population: Panel for Innovation (HAPPI)”, published in 2009 makes a number of recommendations. It calls upon a wide range of stakeholders to collaborate to improve living standards, one of the stakeholders being planning bodies. Vera Bolter MBE, a panel member, says “we need to encourage people to think ahead, and work to raise expectations. Unless you have a vision about how things could be, you will be confined by what is available now.”

5.5.6    The recommendations from HAPPI broadly cover two fields. One is the way that housing design can actively promote wellbeing through its structure and fabric. The HAPPI recommendations include ten components of design for housing, many of which, being best practice for any design, are covered by other policies in the SWNP.

5.5.7    The other HAPPI recommendation is the use of technology to improve lifestyles: Building management environmental systems and person-centred equipment, which perform monitoring, information and security functions through ‘telecare’ and assistive technologies, help to manage thermal comfort and support independence. ‘Care-ready homes’ will have provision for the highest standards of connectivity so that as these technologies come forward they can be easily adopted by residents.

5.5.8    Provision of the highest standards of connectivity in all homes will benefit all residents, not exclusively the elderly. They will also benefit people working from home, and children and students will be able to make best use of emerging technologies to learn and develop their skills, ensuring that the next generation is well positioned to make the most of the new economy and future jobs market. Policies on connectivity are covered in Policy SW18.

5.5.9    Building Regulations include optional requirements as follows:

  • M4(2) is met where a new dwelling makes reasonable provision for most people to access the dwelling and incorporates features that make it potentially suitable for a wide range of occupants, including older people, those with reduced mobility and some wheelchair users.
  • M4(3) is met where a new dwelling makes reasonable provision, either at completion or at a point following completion, for a wheelchair user to live in the dwelling and use any associated private outdoor space, parking and communal facilities that may be provided for the use of the occupants. [1]

5.5.10  The Government’s Planning Practice Guidance allows latitude for local plans to set local requirements for accessible and adaptable homes, subject to the development schemes remaining financially viable. Neighbourhood plans are not allowed to set higher standards than the Local Plan. Nonetheless the SWNP sets out a non-binding policy on accessibility standards viewed as desirable and which will be binding if and when permitted.



[1]  The Building Regulations 2010: Access to and use of buildings M.


1.  Self-contained ground floor accommodation will be included on developments of over 10 dwellings.

2.  Housing designed specifically for older people should demonstrate that they are designed in accordance with HAPPI principles.

3.  On developments of more than 10 dwellings, all housing (market and affordable) should meet the Building Regulations Requirement M4(2): Category 2 (Accessible and Adaptable dwellings).

4.  On developments of more than 10 dwellings, 10% of market housing and 15% of affordable housing should be required to meet Category 3 M4(3) Wheelchair user dwellings.

5.  To future-proof the SWNP: If or when the Local Plan, national planning practice guidance or Building Regulations, supersedes these provisions with higher standards or newer technologies, or permits them to be required, development will be required to meet the higher standards and/or use the newer technologies.

6.  Where an open book assessment of viability concludes that policies on accessible and adaptable homes may not be applied, careful consideration will be given to the overall scheme and the scheme should be refused unless it strongly meets all the other objectives in the SWNP.

This policy supports the Neighbourhood Plan Objectives 1,2,5


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Neighbourhood Plan Objectives

Objective 1

Saffron Walden will be an economically active and self-sustaining town, offering equal opportunities to all.

Objective 2

Saffron Walden’s residents will be able to live as healthily as possible.

Objective 3

Saffron Walden will be an environmentally sustainable town.

Objective 4

Saffron Walden’s heritage assets, high quality landscape and conservation areas will be protected or enhanced.

Objective 5

Saffron Walden will retain its market-town feel and community spirit.


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