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Builders association receives backlash after lobbying against accessible homes

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The Home Builders Federation (HBF) has been accused of “appalling self-interest” over their lobbying against building more accessible homes for disabled residents, reports the Guardian.

Private housing builders have been objecting to councils across England that wish to fix new targets to increase the number of homes with room for wheelchair users and which could be adaptable.

The HBF argues that new local planning policies which seek to build more accessible houses could make it unprofitable to build new homes in the future.

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The builders’ body has made submissions to 17 local authorities including Liverpool and Sevenoaks.

Cllr Pam Thomas, a wheelchair user and cabinet member at Liverpool city council, told the Gurdian: “Their attitude is appalling self-interest.”

Liverpool city council has faced objections from the HBF to its plan to make 10% of new homes wheelchair accessible.

Thomas added: “If they looked at this properly they would realise there wasn’t a problem with the cost or [extending] the footprint. They need to have a social conscience here.”

The submissions from the HBF also question whether predictions of an ageing population mean an increased demand for adaptable and accessible housing would be certain.

Charities including Age UK, the Centre for Ageing Better and Disability Rights UK said on Tuesday they were alarmed at its objections to planning policy proposals to make greater disability access mandatory.

The charities said only 7% of homes were classed as accessible and that building to a higher accessibility standard would cost about £500 more.

The HBF represents highly profitable housing firms including Persimmon, which recorded gross profits of £565m in the first six months of this year, during which it built 8,000 new homes – a margin per home of about £70,000.

In an open letter, the charities told the HBF: “Without homes that enable us to live safely and independently for as long as possible, we will see increased and unsustainable pressure on our health and social care services and much-reduced quality of life for people in older age.”

Unless it was changed in local planning policy, it remains optional under national regulations to incorporate features that make new homes suitable for people with reduced mobility and some wheelchair users. It also remains voluntary to make them fully wheelchair accessible, unless town halls make it mandatory.

In one submission to Broxbourne council in Hertfordshire, the HBF said: “The key issue we have with policies that add financial burdens on the development industry in this local plan is that they have not been effectively tested.”

Objections have been raised by the HBF where it believes councils have not taken into account the financial impact of the proposals alongside other demands such as the provision of affordable housing and said that if a council wanted to prioritise disabled access, it should reduce its demands for affordable homes.

A HBF spokesperson said: “New homes are already more accessible than those built previously, but not all home buyers want a home that has been adapted for accessible use.

“If the government deemed that all homes should be built to higher accessibility standards – it could make it a requirement. Currently, levels are set by the planning system which specifically requires local authorities to provide evidence to support their demands.”

Tags : accessibilitybuildingbuilding regulationscouncilhome adaptation
Carly Hacon

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