Policy H/SS: Residential space standards and accessible homes

DRAFT version for various committee meetings.

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What will this policy do?

This policy will set the required standards for internal spaces within new homes, the proportion of accessible and adaptable dwellings to be provided as part of dwelling mix, and provision of external private and shared amenity space.

Proposed policy direction

Gross internal floor areas for all new homes will be required to meet or exceed the nationally described residential space standard or its successor. Exceptions only where new homes are being provided to meet a specific evidenced need (e.g. accommodation for homeless, disabled or specific young adults) and evidence is provided to demonstrate that meeting this nationally described standard would result in unsuitable homes for the identified occupants.

New homes created through residential conversions and homes created by changes of use from non-residential land uses should seek to meet or exceed the nationally described residential space standards as far as it is practicable to do so.

All new homes will be required to be Building Regulations M4(2) ‘accessible and adaptable’ dwellings. Exceptions only where it can be demonstrated that site specific circumstances, in addition to the other requirements for the development, make the proposed development impractical, unachievable or unviable.

5% of affordable homes on new developments that include 20 or more affordable homes will be required to be Building Regulations M4(3) ‘wheelchair user’ dwellings, to be provided as Building Regulations M4(3)(a) ‘wheelchair adaptable’ dwellings unless the Council has identified a need for Building Regulations M4(3)(b) ‘wheelchair accessible’ dwellings. Exceptions only where it can be demonstrated that there is no evidence of need.

All newly created homes (through conversion, change of use, or new build) will be required to have direct access to private amenity space. We propose to develop revised minimum space standards for private amenity space for different types of dwellings and locations.

Why is this policy needed?

National planning policy states that planning policies should ensure that developments create places with a high standard of amenity for existing and future users. It specifically allows local authorities to include planning policies that make use of the nationally described residential space standard and the optional technical standards for accessible and adaptable housing.

Requiring all new homes to be Building Regulations M4(2) ‘accessible and adaptable’ dwellings allows for dwellings to be adapted over time, including to accommodate a wheelchair user(s), or to take account of other disability or mobility issues. New self or custom build dwellings can also be designed specifically to meet the requirements of the occupant(s) and therefore take account of any disability or mobility issues.

What consultation have we done on this issue?

Responses to the First Conversation highlighted a wish for new homes to meet the Lifetime Homes standard and be designed to include flexibility to enable adaptation during the lifetime of their occupants.

There was generally support for the Local Plan continuing to set minimum size standards to ensure provision of sufficient indoor space, set requirements for accessibility and adaptability of homes, and make sure that new homes have access to private gardens and outdoor space. Respondents also commented that any requirements should not be applied inflexibly as some people are happy with smaller homes that are high quality. Developers highlighted that any required standards have implications for build costs, and that it is important that these requirements are considered in the viability assessment of the Local Plan.

What alternatives did we consider?

1. Not implementing the nationally described space standards - This is not the preferred approach because our evidence shows that without specifically requiring the standards some developments will be designed to provide new homes below these standards.

2. Not requiring new homes to meet Building Regulations M4(2) standard - This is not the preferred approach because the Cambridgeshire and West Suffolk Housing Needs of Specific Groups study (2021) provides recommendations on the percentage of new homes that should meet this standard based on evidence of need, and accessible and adaptable housing enables people to live more independently and it is better to build these types of homes from the outset rather than have to make adaptations at a later stage.

3. Not requiring new homes to meet Building Regulations M4(3) standard - This is not the preferred approach because there is evidence of need for wheelchair user homes. The additional costs associated with providing homes to meet either of the M4(3) standards are significant and therefore requiring a higher percentage would have implications for other policy requirements or the overall viability of a development.

4. Not provide guidance on the provision of private amenity space for all new homes - This is not the preferred approach because national planning policy states that planning policies should ensure that developments create places with a high standard of amenity for existing and future users. Outside amenity space is an important part of this and the need for it was emphasised during the coronavirus pandemic.

Supporting evidence studies and topic papers

Existing policies in adopted 2018 Local Plans

South Cambridgeshire Local Plan 2018

  • Policy H/9: Housing Mix
  • Policy H/12: Residential Space Standards

Cambridge Local Plan 2018

  • Policy 50: Residential space standards
  • Policy 51: Accessible homes

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