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What about listed buildings?

Just because you work in or use a listed building, doesn’t mean you can’t provide access

English Heritage is the lead advisory body on providing access to historic buildings in England. They believe that access should be celebrated with high-quality design that is also sensitive to the special interest of historic buildings. They provide lots of guidance for improving the access of listed buildings.

It is important to remember that the Disability Discrimination Act is only one Act amongst many – it does not override other legislation such as listed building or planning legislation.

If you want to gain listed building consent, it is important to provide information about the architectural and historical significance of the building so that the likely impact of the access proposals can be assessed in relation to this. Any application must demonstrate why any works that are potentially damaging to the structure of a building are necessary or desirable, and show that there is a balance between conservation and access. It may take a while to get the balance right but English Heritage says: ‘If a detailed proposal is refused consent it may still be possible to achieve alternative and acceptable design solutions through negotiation and resubmission’.

It may even be necessary to apply for listed building consent for temporary access measures, including those made in advance of agreeing or adopting permanent solutions. This is necessary if these measures will affect the character of the building. Portable ramps which are not fixed in place and which are removed after use do not require consent.

For some listed buildings, physical access is currently not possible without destroying the ethos of the site. It then might be necessary to consider:

  • Relocating public services from the upper to the ground floor, in order to overcome barriers to access
  • Using print and computer technology to provide access to the service, where physical barriers cannot be overcome
  • Adjusting circulation routes to avoid barriers such as stepped thresholds and narrow doorways.

Disabled users should be consulted to establish the acceptability of providing the service in a different way to that offered to others.

English Heritage have a publication, Easy Access to Historic Buildings, which can be downloaded from their website

The Heritage Lottery Fund also provides support and advice in this area. They state that their function is to conserve and enhance the heritage and confirm that they fully recognise the complexity of creating access to historic buildings, their interior spaces, and collections which they may house. They state that they want to encourage creative approaches to finding the best solutions for improved access. Where it is not possible to create full physical access, we would expect to see alternative proposals, for example through the use of new technology.

For further guidance, see their website