Guide to Accessible, Adaptable and Wheelchair Dwellings

There are approximately 7,200 wheelchair-user households in Cornwall, of which 575 are living in housing that is not suitable for their long-term needs.

The current housing stock is largely inaccessible and not fully ‘visitable’ by wheelchair users or other disabled people.  The proportion of stock that is suitable for a disabled person to live in is even smaller.

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An assessment of a property’s ‘visitability’ includes provision of: level access; flush thresholds; suitable door widths and circulation spaces; and, toilet facilities at entrance level. To be suitable for a disabled person to live in, properties would need to be significantly enhanced further, likely requiring adaptions to make it habitable.

New national technical access standards for housing were published in March 2015. As a result, Building Regulations now specify three design standards for new properties:

  • Category 1: mandatory former ‘Part M’ Visitable Dwellings, with no significant improvements;
  • Category 2: Accessible & Adaptable Dwellings - broadly comparable to Lifetime Homes’ standard;and,
  • Category 3: Wheelchair User Dwellings - broadly similar to Wheelchair Housing Design Guide standards. 

Accessibility requirements vary from household to households and there cannot be a ‘one size fits all’ solution.  Instead dwellings should be well-designed and versatile to ensure they can meet a variety of individuals’ needs in the long-term.

The Cornwall Local Plan will require 25% of new homes on sites of 10 or more new dwellings to meet the requirements of Category 2 to be ‘Accessible & adaptable’. This will ensure flexible housing is provided, which will serve the needs of the occupant as they change over time. To enhance the quality of the housing stock in Cornwall, this will be a requirement over the whole scheme, and not just within the affordable housing mix.

In addition, there is an identified need for ‘specialist housing’ to meet the needs of those with physical disabilities, learning difficulties or mental health issues. Larger schemes of 200 units or more will be required to make specific provision for this type of specialist housing in accordance with Category 3, where there is a proven demand for such accommodation.

Moving to a more suitable home will likely improve a disabled person’s quality of life.

The Council will do all it can to assist households that need to move to a more accessible property.  However, with the supply of existing suitable stock so low, new build may be the only option.  In such cases, Cornwall Homechoice and the Affordable Housing Team will work together to provide a suitable unit through the planning process of new developments. 

In formulating an affordable housing mix, consideration will therefore be given to securing Category 2 or 3 dwellings, where there is an identified need. The Affordable Housing Team liaises closely with a number of partners, including: the Homechoice Welfare Panel; Occupational Therapists; Home Solutions (who provide DFGs); and Registered Providers to enable homes to be delivered.

We will endeavour to notify developers of requirements at either pre-application or planning application stage (if not before), and work with them to facilitate delivery. This will form part of the overall housing mix, which will also include tenure proportions and property types (i.e. bedrooms, persons, internal floor areas).  

This information is also available in our bite-size guide to Accessible, Adaptable and Wheelchair Dwellings