image of a ramp at Easling Town Hall, London, illustrating easy access to historic buildings
The access ramp at Ealing Town Hall designed to blend with the existing building © Historic England
The access ramp at Ealing Town Hall designed to blend with the existing building © Historic England

Improving Access to Historic Buildings and Landscapes

Historic England's guidelines on improving access to historic buildings and landscapes for people with disabilities, explain how to make a range of positive changes to historic places, while at the same time working within the wider principles of conservation.

Easy access guidance

Aimed at those who own, manage or get involved in adapting historic places such as architects, the guidelines include a summary of the statutory framework, as well as examples of successful approaches, ranging from minor improvements to high-quality modern design solutions.

The guidance also emphasises the need to take a clear brief and to explore alternatives in a creative way, so that good quality effective solutions can be found.

The importance of understanding the significance and vulnerabilities of the historic building, place or landscape and having a good knowledge of the needs of the users are also highlighted.

Changing Places toilet facilities and changes to Building Regulations Part M

Changing Places are large (12m²) well-equipped accessible toilet facilities designed to meet the needs of people with severe disabilities and others with profound and multiple learning disabilities. These facilities typically include hoists, curtains, adult-sized changing benches and space for carers such as the Changing Places toilet installed at the Tower of London.

In 2020 the Government affirmed its intent to ensure people with disabilities and their carers can confidently leave their homes and go out knowing there are Changing Places facilities available.

The Building Regulations Approved Document Part M has been amended to require that places of assembly, recreation and entertainment with a capacity for 350 or more people install Changing Places facilities if they are newly built or undergoing a major refurbishment.

The amendment also applies to ‘a collection of smaller buildings’ with a capacity of 2,000 people or more. Historic buildings such as hotels, colleges, theatres, places of worship and other venues may come under these regulations if changes are being planned, and the scope to include Changing Places facilities should be considered in all projects.

The amendments are set out in the Government’s ‘The Building Regulations 2010. Amendments to the Approved Documents. Approved Document M: Access to and use of buildings. Volume 2- Buildings other than dwellings 2015 edition’ July 2020. They came into effect on 1 January 2021.

The Government’s response Changing Places consultation provides more briefing. There is an easy read version too.

The Changing Places campaign consortium also offer a guide.

Inclusive Design Hub and free online CPD course

The Design Council with support from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Historic England and others has created an online hub on inclusive design guidance for built environment professionals. It covers buildings and outdoor spaces, in all phases of development including planning, design and construction, right through to the management of those buildings and places:

A free online Inclusive Environments CPD course is also available too. It takes about an hour to complete and the Design Council will provide a CPD certificate.

Unlocking Landscapes Network

Historic England is working with Clare Hickman of Newcastle University and Sarah Bell of the University of Exeter on the ‘Unlocking Landscapes Network: History, Culture and Sensory Diversity in Landscape Use and Decision Making’. The network brings together academics, practitioners and policy makers to consider the complex ways in which landscapes become meaningful to diverse individuals and groups through their senses, personal memories and shared histories.

The network is funded by the joint research councils’ programme ‘Changing Landscapes: ‘Towards a new Decision Making Framework for UK Landscapes and Land Assets’.

The network steering group also includes Bristol University, the National Trust, the Woodland Trust, the Sensory Trust, Sense, and Natural Inclusion.

For more information, see the Unlocking Landscapes blog  

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