Question to the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government (Mr. Alan Kelly, TD)
To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government the steps he will take to ensure that all county development plans prioritise facilitating access for all, in particular for wheelchair users; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Jerry Buttimer
For WRITTEN ANSWER on Thursday, 15 January 2015.
My Department’s Sectorial Plan, as provided for in section 31 of the Disability Act 2005, was developed in consultation with groups representing people with disabilities to assist the Department and local authorities in supporting an inclusive society with accessible buildings, facilities, services and information. In accordance with my Department’s Sectorial Plan, all local authorities were required to carry out an accessibility audit in respect of all public spaces, public buildings and services owned and operated by them. In total, my Department provided over €77 million, between 2005 and 2010, to assist local authorities in improving access to public spaces, buildings and services for people with disabilities. Funding was allocated annually for purposes of Disability Services to local authorities, on the basis of priority areas identified by them in implementation plans.
The Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) takes a central role in the implementation of the Disability Strategy in the local government sector and provides a range of advice and support to local authorities in that regard.
The Building Control Act 1990 and the Building Regulations 1997-2014 set down the minimum, legally enforceable standards that must be applied to the design and construction of buildings including in respect of access and use. The statutory requirements are set out in the relevant parts included under the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations 1997-2014. Technical guidance document Part M demonstrates how the statutory requirements in relation to access and use may be achieved in practice and aims to foster an inclusive approach to the design and construction of the built environment.
Under the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, the development plan must set out an overall strategy for the proper planning and sustainable development of the area concerned. Section 10 of the Act requires a development plan to include, inter alia, objectives for the integration of the planning and sustainable development of the area with the social, community and cultural requirements of the area and its population. Accordingly, planning authorities include objectives in their development plans as appropriate to take significant and inclusive account of relevant statutory obligations including the building regulations.
Given the roles of the Building Control Act 1990, and Regulations made thereunder, and the Development Plan in specifying requirements and standards in relation to sustainable development generally, inclusive of access related matters, I am satisfied that the building control and planning processes fully support enhancement of access for all.