Controversial new development aims to tackle the UK’s accessible housing crisis

A proposed scheme in Cornwall has raised opposition, but campaigners say accessible housing is desperately needed. We look at the scale of the issue and where you can go for help with accessible housing.

It is a rare housing scheme that should give fresh hope to those desperately seeking accessible and affordable homes – but a new development in Cornwall is getting pushback from locals.

Cornwall planning officers have granted permission for the building of affordable, wheelchair-accessible homes on land at Scredda near St Austell. This is despite strong opposition from Treverbyn parish councillors. They say the development will take up the last bit of green space in the area and there has been no consideration for the area’s struggling infrastructure.

The development also puts the spotlight back on the lack of accessible homes across the UK. Here, we explain the issues and reveal where you can get help if you are looking for accessible accommodation.

woman in wheelchair working on laptop in kitchenCredit: DC STUDIO/Shutterstock

Welcome news for wheelchair users?

Praising the development as “unique”, planners gave the green light for 48 affordable homes – a mix of social housing and shared-ownership homes, including some wheelchair-accessible bungalows and four-bedroom homes.

The designs are geared towards helping people maintain their independence at home for as long as possible, and developers Gilbert & Goode and Ocean Housing say they will help to meet local needs. 

But not everyone is happy about the plans.

Credit: Shutterstock / Monkey Business Images

Local concerns

At a planning meeting this week, councillors raised two key issues – a lack of infrastructure to support the development, and concerns that the 7,500 local residents won’t be given priority for the homes.

David Stephens, clerk of the Treverbyn Parish Council, says: “We are very much against the development. We’re not against affordable housing for local people but we feel the infrastructure needs to be there. 

“The development is obviously going to add pressure on the area’s facilities – the roads, schools, medical facilities – which are under strain as it is.” 

There is currently a waiting list for parish residents seeking affordable homes.

However, Craig Rowe, senior development manager at Gilbert and Goode stresses that only locals will benefit. He told us: “This is a 100% affordable housing scheme for local people, rather than an open-market sale scheme.”

The UK’s accessible housing crisis

There is a significant shortage of accessible homes in the UK, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. It is estimated that 400,000 wheelchair users in the UK currently live in properties that are unsuitable for their needs. 

In 2022, the UK government undertook a consultation to tackle the critically short supply of accessible homes. As a result, ministers pledged to introduce new rules that will insist that all new homes in England be built to a ‘M4(2)* standard of accessibility, except in cases where this is “impractical and unachievable”. 

Campaigners have said that the proposals fail to meet the needs of disabled people, and in particular that there are no national guidelines on what proportion of new homes must be wheelchair-accessible. 

KeysCredit: Shutterstock / H_Ko

Help to find accessible housing

  • For those in the rental market, Knight Frank has partnered with AccessiblePRS to work to improve inclusion. AccessiblePRS works with stakeholders like landlords, local councils and build-to-rent investors to level the playing field so that older and disabled renters can find suitable properties.
  • Working in partnership with Disability Horizons, Branch Properties are accessibility specialists with a focus on selling, letting, providing, finding, and promoting properties that are suitable for those with accessibility challenges. 
  • At the upper end of the market, Prestige Properties is the go-to for wheelchair users seeking both UK properties and those in international locations including Monaco, Barbados and Italy. 

Written by Joy Archer she/her