What process is being put in place to ensure that the the housing that the WBC owned companies are building are suitable for access by users with mobility problems? This would include ensuring that there is step free access, doorways that are wide enough for wheelchairs, bathrooms that are big enough for wheelchairs and that if stairs are included there is enough room for a stair lift to be installed.
When this question came through I was absolutely delighted that it actually came because it is a question that is dear to my own personal life. As you know I am disabled and I am reliant on splints on both legs so I can say that access is important to me.
I actually regularly meet with Officers here every two weeks and we discuss in detail new schemes that are coming forward and we look at our policies in meeting the needs of our residents which are in some cases very complex. So all our schemes developed by our housing companies come through this process as well to determine housing mix, tenure and the wider development requirements, including the accessibility standards.
All of the homes that Wokingham Housing Limited have built are to the Lifetime Homes Standard, although not all blocks of flats have lifts in them. Lifetime Homes Standard is a set of 16 design criteria that provide a model for building accessible and adaptable homes. The features include level access, wider doors, sockets and switches that are neither too high nor too low, space for a stair or a future floor lift for a wheelchair user, WC space that could also be adapted for future shower use. Actually on that note we had some residents from Gorse Ride that visited Phoenix Avenue and one resident walked into one of the newly built houses and looked at the downstairs toilet and said “oh my good this room is huge and has just got one little toilet in the corner”. Well that is ready for to meet the lifetime needs of a resident there. So that could be adapted with, you know, all sorts of things: bath, a wet room, a lift to the next floor up etc. So it is very keenly looked at and we ensure that new builds actually achieve that.
Talking about some of our most vulnerable residents I do a lot of engagement with our residents and again going to visit Gorse Ride I met a couple who were both reliant on wheelchairs and they are living in an environment which is not fit for purpose. They cannot even turn their wheelchairs around therefore the post-regeneration of Gorse Ride will provide them with those 16 design criteria plus anything else we can do to enable their lives rather than to disable their lives.
Does your design criteria include the things I mentioned? Can we get reassurance that everything we build at least can be adapted?
Yes I can give you reassurance on that and actually I really would welcome your involvement in this. We have got a number of forums we have formed especially around Gorse Ride where your keen eye would be welcome.
The Deputy Leader of Council stated:
There is another forum called the Local Plan Update and this might be a policy you might like to submit to the group who are looking at this. You might want to suggest that it is a policy that needs reviewing or looking at.