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FREQUENTLY (AND NOT SO FREQUENTLY) ASKED QUESTIONS

Updated: 15/3/06

QUESTION

SHOULD A TOILET BE PROVIDED in the entrance level to a dwelling if no one in the occupying family will have a disability?

This was the subject of an appeal for relaxation to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister - Reference 45/3/175 - ODPM appeal letter dated 29 September 2005.

ANSWER

The proposed building was a detached 3 storey house, with the floors connected by a stairway. The floors were:

  • Basement Floor Level - a stair down to an internal lobby with connecting guest WC, leading to kitchen/dining room on one side. On the other side, via a utility room to a hobby room with an en-suite bathroom with a WC.
  • Ground Floor (entrance) Level - level asccess entrance door opening onto hall/stairway with one step down to formal living/dining room to one side and garage to the other;
  • First Floor Level - four bedrooms and two WCs (one as part of an en-suite bathroom).

THE APPELLANT'S CASE
The appellant considered the building complied with the intent of guidance with the exception of Section 10 relating to Requirement M4, which was considered too onerous and unreasonable in the circumstances in this case.

The proposed house was not a speculative home built for an unknown buyer - it was designed specifically for the client's requirements and use at their own expense. The client did not want to have a WC compartment adjacent to the formal living room on the ground floor, which would generally be where they would entertain guests.

There will be no disabled occupants and none of the client's family or friends were currently disabled. The house would not be a public building and, if there was a disabled guest, he/she would be invited into the house when the owners were present so that the guest would be helped to negotiate the steps.

Should the client find their mobility decreases or they decide to sell the house in the future, provision had been made for a WC compartment to be built at ground floor level, adjacent to the plumbing stack alongside the entrance/living room wall, if necessary.

SECRETARY OF STATE'S CONSIDERATION
The Secretary of State was not asked to make a decision on level access to habitable rooms but made the point that the level entrance threshold only led to a hallway from which the main living area was reached via a stepped access. The Secretary of State considered that the purpose and requirements of Part M had been misunderstood in the case of this step.

The Secretary of State wished it to be clear that what was being addressed related primarily, but not exclusively, to the needs of people with mobility impairments. Such impairments may be temporary or permanent and they could affect anybody. As far as reasonably practicable, no person who is in such a position should be prevented by thoughtless building design from going about their affairs in an independent manner. A resident who has an accident, or an unexpected guest or visitor on business with a mobility impairment, should not be expected to have to be helped up or down a flight of stairs to reach a WC, and the knowledge that the potential for construction of a new ground floor toilet had been forseen would be neither help nor consolation in such circumstances.

THE SECRETARY OF STATE'S DECISION
The Secretary of State concluded that it would not be appropriate to dispence with Requirement M4 ("Sanitary conveniences in dwellings" of Schedule 1 to the Building Regulations 2000 (as amended) in this case. Accordingly, he dismissed the appeal.




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