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Why can't we face the truth about regulation?


It would be politically incorrect, to put it mildly, to launch an attack on the myriad regulations which are now applied to buildings and the environment in order to 'protect' a wide range of minority groups. This column, resolute as ever in its commitment to the speaking of unpalatable truths, is prepared to risk the wrath of single-interest pressure groups in airing what is rapidly becoming a (hidden) public scandal. I refer to the vast amounts of money being wasted on so-called 'disabled access', the absurd regulations being imposed on everything from door thresholds to location of lavatories, and the promotion of a new form of urban terrorist - the cyclist.

What is happening to building regulation is the result of a bizarre psychological condition in which society attempts to compensate for the impossible conditions the disabled face in the public realm of road, pavement, bus, train and tube. This compensation takes the form of nonsensical over-provision of 'disabled lavatories' in offices, for instance, or these days pressure not to provide facilities for the majority which a minority cannot enjoy. Even if lifts are provided, is it right that a spiral ramp should be provided for internal circulation? Should not everybody be forced to have the same facilities, runs this mad logic.

This is emphatically not an argument against the most generous provision for all needs in our public buildings, and in the public realm generally. It is simply that we are wasting hundreds of millions of pounds in the general provision in private buildings of facilities which are massively underused. This distracts from real areas where investment should be taking place: provision of kit (eg cars for the disabled so they cease to be reliant on the inherently unreliable), and big improvements in the efficiency and performance characteristics of chairs, stair-lifts etc. Current policy is simply assuaging a general guilt in a mindless way. As for cyclists, the question is this: how much longer will pedestrians be prepared to put up with the arrogant menaces who are turning cycle lanes into an urban hazard?

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