T-5/99E Accessibility for all
Circular | Date: 29/12/1999 | Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development
Originally published by: Miljøverndepartementet
No: T-5/99 B
Municipalities, county municipalities and county governors
This circular constitutes part of the follow up of Report no. 29 to the Storting (St meld) (1996-97) regarding regional planning and land-use policy and Report no. 8 to the Storting (St meld) (1998-99) regarding the Norwegian Government's plan of action for the disabled 1998-2001.
It has been prepared as a joint project between the Ministry of the Environment, which is responsible for the planning aspects of the Planning and Building Act, the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, which is responsible for the building aspects of the Planning and Building Act, and the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, which is responsible for the plan of action for the disabled.
This circular consists of two parts: Part 1, written by the Ministry of the Environment, is a policy circular in which local government practices are further developed and clarified by means of guidelines; Part 2, written by the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, discusses a specific issue that is crucial to the realisation of the national goal "accessibility for all". Although the two parts of this document are quite different in nature, we have chosen to publish them together because we wish to emphasise the connection between planning and the final product. Accessibility can only be achieved once the solutions have been implemented.
The topics discussed in Part 2 regarding section 7 of the Planning and Building Act, which lays down the rules for dispensation from requirements, apply to construction and land-use projects specifically. In the event of a body or project being granted dispensation from a plan (the Municipal Master Plan, the Local Development Plan or the Building Development Plan), an assessment must be made expressing an opinion regarding those interests that the plan is intended to safeguard.
A central issue in both parts of this circular is the principle of "universal design", the aim of which is to ensure that everybody is able to use the same physical solutions to as great an extent as possible, in terms of buildings, outdoor areas and modes of transport.
This circular is addressed primarily to municipalities, county municipalities and county governors, but also to all affected ministries, organisations, user groups, and planners and designers of building projects and outdoor areas.
Part 1 - The Ministry of the Environment: Accessibility and planning
Part 1 of the circular addresses how accessibility in the physical surroundings and the interests of people with disabilities can be safeguarded and promoted by means of planning in accordance with the Planning and Building Act. It also clarifies the national objectives in this area. Pursuant to the Planning and Building Act, the county governor and the county municipality are empowered to forward objections to plans that do not comply with the main goals laid down in this circular.
Part 2 - The Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development: The requirement for access to buildings - exemptions and dispensation
Part 2 of this circular deals with the statutory requirement for accessibility laid down in section 77 of the Planning and Building Act, which defines the requirements regarding the usability of buildings. The specific requirements pertaining to access to buildings are defined in section 10-21 of the Regulations concerning requirements for construction works and products for construction works (TEK).
Minister of the Envrionment
Minister of Local Govenment and Regional Development
Magnhild Meltveit Kleppa
Minister of Health and Social Affairs
Part 1 - The Ministry of the Environment: Accessibility and planning
In this part of the circular, the Ministry of the Environment describes in more detail how the municipalities can promote the main objective of improved accessibility for all by means of their land-use planning. Fulfilment of this objective will yield advantages for everyone but will be of particular importance to people with disabilities. For this reason, this circular has been written with focus on the needs of this group of users.
This circular shall act as a directive for the municipalities' planning, but it is not legally binding on property owners and holders of rights to a property. Thus, this circular does not introduce any new legal rules or any new actors into the planning process. The purpose of this circular is to ensure the quality of the plans and to focus attention on concrete problems and user groups, so that the approved local development plans fulfil the objectives of the Planning and Building Act - i.e. that "the use of land and the buildings thereon will be of greatest possible benefit to the individual and the community".
1.1 The objectives of this circular are as follows:
a. To render visible and promote the interests of disabled people in all local government planning pursuant to the Planning and Building Act.
b. To give the municipalities a better foundation for integrating and safeguarding the interests of people with disabilities in their continuous work on Municipal Master Plans, Local Development Plans and Building Development Plans.
c. To provide a basis for assessing cases in which the needs and interests of people with disabilities come into conflict with other considerations or interests.
d. To enable the county municipalities and the county governors to intervene and to facilitate user participation in the municipal planning where this is necessary to fulfil the objectives of this circular, and to give affected responsible government authorities the right to voice an objection.
Promoting the interests of disabled people in municipal planning will ensure better accessibility for all.
2 Distribution of authority
The priority area "Planning and user participation" in the Norwegian Government's Plan of Action for the Disabled 1998-2001 aims to introduce consideration of the needs of people with disabilities as a precondition in all municipal and county municipal planning. The goal has been set that all the main political and social objectives regarding disabled people shall be included in the basis on which decisions are made in all planning and that these objectives shall be developed to generate concrete measures on the various different levels of planning within the relevant sectors.
The responsibility for implementing the intentions and considerations laid down in this circular is ascribed to the following bodies:
a. The Ministry of the Environment is responsible for planning and administers the planning aspects of the Planning and Building Act. The Ministry of the Environment bears the ultimate responsibility for providing instructions and guidelines in connection with the preparation of the various different plans and is authorised to decide appeals and disputes.
The Ministry of Health and Social Affairs is responsible for social welfare and health policy for people with disabilities and people who are elderly. Although other ministries are responsible for their respective areas, the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs bears a special responsibility to act as a driving force and to implement policies regarding people with disabilities and people who are elderly across the traditional sector borders.
b. The social department under the County Governor is responsible for ensuring that users are consulted and participate in the planning process pursuant to the Planning and Building Act and is therefore entitled to intervene with the aim of ensuring promotion and fulfilment of the main goals.
The County Municipality is responsible for addressing the issue of accessibility in its plans. The planning on the county level is directional for the planning on the municipal level. The county municipality must therefore, in consultation with the county governor, provide the municipalities with guidelines and any support they may need in order to safeguard the interests of people with disabilities in the municipalities' planning arising from section 2.1 of this circular. If necessary, the county municipality may choose to appeal the land-use section of a Municipal Master Plan. A Local Development Plan or a Building Development Plan.
c. The authority and responsibilities of the municipalities are detailed below, in section 2.1.
2.1 The municipal planning process
In their capacity as a planning authority, municipalities bear the primary responsibility for including the national objective of accessibility for all in their basis for decisions in municipal planning and when deciding individual cases in relation to the municipal plans.
To this end, it is important that municipalities:
a. Undertake an overall assessment of the conditions necessary for the full participation of people with disabilities in society and co-ordinate their objectives and measures in the municipal planning work.
b. Organise the planning process in such a way that points of view concerning people with disabilities as an affected party are heard and that various different organisations and groups of users are given the opportunity to participate. The municipal council for people with disabilities and the statutory council for the elderly should be used actively in the municipalities' planning work.
c. Develop plans, provisions and guidelines for plans for the development of areas and facilities with the aim of ensuring good accessibility people with disabilities.
d. Ensure that the assessments that are made pursuant to points a to c are clearly included as preconditions for planning in the documents on which decisions are based.
As the local planning authority, municipalities bear the primary responsibility for ensuring that the various requirements regarding functions and performance levels are met in the plans. The national objectives entail that in many cases, municipalities will have to focus more clearly on these goals (chapter 3) and set higher performance requirements for the plans than has previously been practice.
In order to achieve this, it is important that all the relevant considerations are taken into account in the long-term part of the Municipal Master Plan, in programmes of action that have a long-term budget and development goals, in annual plans and in annual budgets. These are prerequisites for the subsequent work on the section of the Municipal Master Plan that deals with land-use and for the local development and building development plans.
In connection with the processing of individual building projects and any dispensation from requirements that may be granted, we would refer you to Part 2 of the circular regarding access to buildings and dispensation from the requirements.
3 National objectives
The national objectives that this circular is intended to promote may be summarised as follows:
a. To ensure that all local government planning is inclusive so that everyone has equal access to use buildings and outdoor areas.
b. To fulfil the government's responsibility to ensure the functional design of buildings and outdoor areas for everyone.
The purpose of all planning is to promote the economic and efficient use of public resources to develop environmentally sound solutions, a safe local community and residential areas, good traffic safety and efficient circulation of traffic. Priority has also been ascribed to ensuring that the particular needs and interests of people with disabilities are included in the planning process. In this respect, it is important to emphasise that there is not normally a conflict of interests between the needs of people with disabilities and those of the rest of society. Most people experience being disabled in some way for at least a short period of their lives. Better accessibility will generally entail advantages for all user groups. According to the public health survey performed in 1985, some 770 000 people in Norway (or 19 % of the population) suffer permanent difficulties in essential areas of life. Of these people, 39 % are over the age of 67 years. Of the working population (people aged 16 to 67 years), approx. 16 % are disabled in some way.
In order to satisfy the government's objective regarding better accessibility for all members of society, the surroundings (i.e. buildings, outdoor areas and other public facilities) must be designed in such a way that they can be used by as large a proportion of the population as possible. This means designing them with the needs of everyone in mind, including people with reduced mobility, people with reduced ability to grasp information in their surroundings (due to poor vision, poor hearing or a mental disability) and the environmentally disabled (people with allergies and asthmatics).
Better accessibility for all members of society is often described using the concept of "universal design", which is defined as follows:
Universal design means designing buildings, the surroundings and products in such a way that they can be used by all people, to as great an extent as possible, without the need for adaptation and special design.
National objectives have been formulated in the following documents:
In Report no. 29 to the Storting (1996-97) regarding regional planning and land-use policy, it is stated that: "The design of our surroundings is important for everyone, both in practical terms and in terms of aesthetics. For people with disabilities, good design of the local surroundings is crucial for compliance with the government's objective regarding full participation and equality, as formulated in the Plan of Action for the Disabled. The government will review the guidelines for the planning and facilitating of the physical surroundings in particular to ensure that physical barriers in the surroundings constitute the least possible obstacle to the integration of disabled people in society. A planning process and solutions that safeguard the needs of people with disabilities will also meet the needs of the rest of the population and will be significant in terms of preventative action".
In Report no. 8 to the Storting (1998-99) "The Norwegian Government's Plan of Action for the Disabled", importance is attached to the fact that it is possible to increase accessibility for people with disabilities in a wide sense by means of systematic and co-ordinated planning. Municipal and county municipal planning processes can be used to ensure that the political goals are translated into concrete action. The Planning and Building Act calls for clear, comprehensive and efficient routines for the treatment of the section of municipal master plans that deals with town planning and land-use and the municipal development and building development plans. This is used as a basis for the formal, practical and administrative aspects of the planning process in county municipalities and municipalities. The Act lays down clear requirements regarding user participation throughout every step of the planning process right up until its political consideration. It is important that disabled people and their organisations are involved to a far greater extent than previously in these arenas. Physical barriers must not pose an obstacle to people with disabilities. Better accessibility for all must be achieved as far as possible.
In Circular T-5/93 "National policy guidelines for co-ordinated land-use and transport planning", it is stated that: "In connection with the planning and design of residential areas and traffic systems, the central government norms and guidelines regarding environmental quality must be taken into account. When new residential areas and roads are being planned, a location and design shall be chosen that promote environmental quality to avoid the need arising later for corrective measures" (section 3.4). "The needs of pedestrians and people with reduced mobility shall be given priority in local government planning" (section 3.5).
Circular T-4/98 "National policy guidelines to promote the interests of children and adolescents in planning" is also relevant. It is important to create a safe environment in which children can grow up that is adapted to their particular needs, and especially so for children with disabilities.
The Planning and Building Act contains provisions regarding co-ordination and prioritisation of various different interests, including the needs of people with disabilities. There are also a number of circulars that have been issued by various different ministries laying down these interests and considerations in more detail, cf. Appendix 1.
4 Municipal planning and user participation
One of the goals of this circular is to ensure that the interests of people with disabilities are rendered visible in those town planning and building matters that are not directly aimed at the needs of people with disabilities, i.e. most areas of local government planning. The goal of better accessibility for all must also be taken into account in these cases (cf. section 2.1.a). Relevant central government bodies (cf. section 2 above) have a duty to take an active part in the municipalities' planning in order to ensure that the plans are prepared on the basis of sufficient and correct specialist knowledge. This is also a prerequisite for the co-ordinating function of planning activities. In addition, central government bodies with expertise in various relevant fields are entitled to participate in the local government planning on the same terms as the affected organisations and user groups, cf. section 16 of the Planning and Building Act on the duties of the planning authorities regarding consultation, publication and information.
Municipal planning affects the municipality both as a local government organisation and as a community. The municipalities must undertake an overall assessment of the situation of disabled people as part of their planning work. The purpose of this is to ensure the full integration of the interests of people with disabilities in all local government planning (cf. section 2.1.a). The municipalities are free to choose how they go about achieving this kind of overall assessment; the goal is the development of a comprehensive policy based on the municipal master plan that provides a sound basis for deciding individual cases. It is crucial that the situation of people with disabilities be put on the political agenda when planning matters are being discussed, if their interests are to be safeguarded.
Municipalities are now being encouraged to include disabled people and their organisations more actively in the planning process. This is simply a further underlining of the general requirements in section 16 of the Planning and Building Act concerning consultation and participation. It is important that the municipalities offer the various organisations, user groups and individuals that represent people with disabilities the opportunity to forward an opinion. Two-way communication should be established at as early a stage as possible in the planning process. To this end, it may be necessary to establish formalised notification routines and dedicated arenas where the various parties can meet; for example, a municipal council on disability.
In order to realise the goal of better accessibility for all, it is preferable that the municipalities prepare guidelines for their planning work. Municipalities may also approve a separate programme of action as part of the municipal master plan, laying down that the consideration of accessibility shall be safeguarded in all planning, cf. section 20-1 of the Planning and Building Act. Accessibility shall be a priority in plans prepared by public authorities and private-sector organisations alike.
Guidelines and other support material shall be developed by each individual municipality to ensure that they address local needs and are relevant to the local situation.
Furthermore, the municipal treatment of individual cases will be greatly simplified if the most pressing problems have already been clarified in advance.
It is important that the assessments and choices that are made pursuant to sections 2.1.a to c above are described in the documentation of the case (cf. section 2.1.d), as this will serve to increase the municipality's awareness of the relevant problems. This kind of description will also make it easier for affected parties to understand and assess the decisions made by the municipality. Finally, it will also facilitate the co-operation and monitoring functions that have been ascribed to the county municipality and county governor.
For example, if a municipal land-use plan contains physical solutions that do not take sufficient account of the consideration of accessibility, the overall assessment of the plan will give the county governor and/or the county municipality the opportunity to intervene.
Other sectors also bear a responsibility to promote the interests of people with disabilities within their specific areas, and in some cases, it may be necessary for these agencies to appeal plans that do not promote attainment of the goals that have been set. For example, the roads authorities may intervene in relation to the roads legislation and the "National policy guidelines for co-ordinated land-use and transport planning" (Circular T-5/93); the working environment authorities may intervene in relation to requirements pursuant to the working environment legislation and the environmental protection authorities may intervene in relation to outdoor and environmental interests. In these kinds of cases, sometimes it may be more expedient that the particular government agency concerned and the social department of the county governor agree on a joint objection to a plan from a broader perspective.
5 Planning and physical design
In this chapter, we will explain in more detail some of the constraints that the consideration of accessibility should entail in the preparation of municipal master plans, local development plans and building development plans. This chapter contains a brief introduction to the ways in which planning in accordance with the Planning and Building Act can be used to promote the national objectives. Sections 5.1 to 5.6 below describe a number of relevant principles of town planning, land-use and development of different types of areas. Points 5.7 and 5.8 describe a number of general rules and guidelines for the preparation of planning documents in order to ensure good accessibility for all.
Universal design is a planning principle that should form the starting point for all planning in county municipalities and municipalities. All the recommendations in this chapter are based on the principle of universal design. Universal design can be used for both the preparation of plans on all levels of detail, from the preparation of an overall master plan right down to the most detailed level of planning, and for the design of constructions and buildings. This principle entails that the physical surroundings, i.e. buildings, outdoor areas, technical installations and other facilities, are designed and built in such a way that they can equally easily be used by all members of society, including people with reduced mobility, vision, hearing and understanding and reduced tolerance to pollution and allergy-inducing substances.
Accessibility should be achieved to as great a degree as possible by means of the overall design without the need for special adaptation, special solutions or other extra solutions.
It is important to note that universal design should be an aim in all planning and should be striven for in every possible way. Reasonable consideration should be shown and solutions must be chosen that provide the greatest degree of accessibility on the basis of the local conditions. Good planning will often allow satisfactory accessibility in places with difficult physical surroundings.
People's ability to function can be reduced in several ways:
Motor ability (people with reduced mobility)
People with reduced mobility include wheelchair users, people who use crutches and walking sticks, people with rheumatism, people with cardiac problems and people with reduced use of their limbs. People with reduced mobility may also have a reduced ability to move quickly, have slower reflexes or an impaired sense of balance.
Orientation (people with reduced ability to grasp information in their surroundings)
This group comprises the blind and visually impaired, the deaf and hard of hearing, and people with other comprehension handicaps who have problems orienting themselves in their surroundings. These groups have disparate requirements for their surroundings to be accessible and usable.
Low tolerance of substances in the environment (the environmentally disabled)
People with asthma and allergies react to substances in the environment: materials they touch, pollution, and natural substances in the air such as pollen.
Taking the needs of people with disabilities into account when planning and building facilities for the public will generally also render the solutions more functional for people without disabilities. For example, cyclists and people with prams will find wheelchair-accessible surroundings much more easily accessible. Good accessibility also improves the surroundings for people who have difficulty walking. Everyone who has slightly impaired hearing or vision and even able-bodied people who are simply in a hurry will benefit from information in their surroundings be easy to understand. Clean air is an advantage for everyone, although problems caused by pollution are most severe for asthmatics and people with allergies.
There are a number of national regulations that lay down requirements and make recommendations regarding planning and design to meet the needs of people with disabilities, cf. the appendixes.
5.1 Town planning
As far as possible, new developments should always be built in existing neighbourhoods, villages and towns out of consideration for people with low mobility and people who do not own a car. Accessibility should be a criterion in the localisation of town centres and public and private service facilities. Reference is made to the National Guidelines for Co-ordinated Planning of Land-use and Transport Policy, which also promote the needs and interests of people with disabilities in town and land-use planning.
5.2 Localisation and design of new developments
New development areas should be localised and designed for use by as many people as possible. This presupposes that development areas are localised, planned and designed in such a way that roads and pedestrian areas are not too steep, make optimum use of the terrain and provide good access to buildings. Outdoor areas for development should be located in areas with good access that does not contain steep hills. Buildings should be adapted to the local topography and designed to allow access without steps. The choice of location and the design of new development areas must also be based on premises of satisfactory local climate, air quality and noise levels.
In densely built-up areas, new developments should be localised so the residents will have easy access to the facilities they need on a day-to-day basis. Similarly, the service centres in towns and villages should be developed so they are concentrated around the various buildings and facilities that are aimed at the general public. The municipality has a special responsibility to localise its offices and services so that they are accessible to everyone. The localisation of the municipal services will in turn lay the premises for the localisation of other activities. These factors will affect the accessibility of a range of public and private services.
The choice of the localisation of new workplaces, care facilities and housing for specified groups of the population should be based on an overall assessment of the consequences regarding usability, social integration, town planning, transport, local climate, etc.
5.3 Localisation and design of recreational areas
Each municipality should develop an area of natural, uncultivated ground so as to be accessible to the entire population in order to give everyone the opportunity to undertake outdoor activities in the local countryside. These areas should be localised so that they can be reached on foot or by means of public transport from local housing areas and town centres. The development of recreational areas should be designed to suit the topography of the area and not disturb the local wildlife, in order to ensure an authentic experience of nature. Even relatively minor measures may greatly improve accessibility in established recreational areas; for example, installation of handrails and benches, removal of obstacles from paths, etc. These alterations should be accompanied by information about the degree of accessibility in the various different areas.
5.4 Transport system
The transport system should meet the needs of the entire population. Continuous, special paths for pedestrians and cyclists should connect the various built-up areas and recreational areas and must be accessible to people with disabilities.
Town centres should be developed with the goal of creating good conditions for pedestrians. In town and village centres, a continuous network of accessible pedestrians areas with the necessary degree of detailing and connectivity should be established with good access to the public transport system. Pedestrians areas should be clearly separated from road traffic and should be designed in such a way that signposts, sales stands, street furniture and other fixtures are not placed in the main line of movement. Where possible, pedestrians and cyclists should be separated. Points of interest, such as traffic lights, pedestrians crossings, underpasses, bus stops, etc. should be marked so that they are easy to read from a distance of several metres.
Effort should be made to ensure that car parking spaces for people with disabilities are included in existing developed areas and to the same standards as those in new areas that are being developed. The various requirements and recommendations regarding parking for people with disabilities are laid down in the Technical Building Regulations and Handbook No. 017 "Road and street design".
In regions and areas in which the density of the population renders a system of public transport feasible, land-use planning and new development areas should be designed for a system of public transport that is accessible to everyone. Importance should be attached to ensuring good accessibility at all stations, stops and terminals in relation to the type of public transport system developed. This entails taking into account the special needs of people who have difficulties orienting themselves in their surroundings, who need stops and information to be easily visible, understandable and recognisable.
5.5 Surroundings in which it is easy find one's way about
Priority should be given to creating surroundings that allow everyone to find their way about. This should be a fundamental requirement in keeping with the other requirements related to usability. It is important to remember that people do not all have the same ability to find their way in complex surroundings. Many people orient themselves by means of the main features in their surroundings, while others depend more on recognisable details.
The ability to orient oneself in one's surroundings is affected by a number of different factors, which vary according to local conditions. New buildings and facilities should be consciously designed in relation to the existing surroundings, and the arrangement and style of the existing surroundings and buildings should be respected. In order to preserve the local character of the site, designers must have sufficient knowledge of what constitutes the typical and unique features of the place in question or in the municipality as a whole, which may be attained by means of a study of the location. In many cases, ease of orientation in the surroundings is achieved by adherence to good aesthetics. Reference is made to the requirements regarding aesthetics in section 77, no. 2 of the Planning and Building Act and circular H-7/97 "Provisions regarding aesthetics in the Planning and Building Act".
5.6 Social arenas
Importance should be attached to creating social arenas in the local environment. Communities need public spaces where people can meet and where the foundations for a sense of local identity and belonging can be created. Social arenas are important for people's health and quality of life and are crucial for people with low mobility. The development of residential areas and towns should therefore be based on reinforcing the ability of towns and villages to act as cultural and social arenas. Existing outdoor areas that function as or have the potential to function as social arenas should be developed appropriately and with a high degree of accessibility. It is an advantage to place new social arenas close to the most highly frequented pedestrian areas.
5.7 Preparation of plans - the municipal master plan
The municipal master plan is an important tool in the effort to include the consideration of enhancing accessibility systematically in all planning, as it serves to co-ordinate the activities of the municipality and lays the constraints for the individual items of business. In the long-term part of the municipal master plan, accessibility can be included as a goal for the development of the municipality, in the guidelines for planning in the individual sectors and in the land-use part of the plan. In the short-term part of the plan, concrete measures to enhance accessibility can be included in the programme of action, and performance status can be assessed in the annual report.
Better accessibility can be demonstrated in the maps for planned developments and described in provisions and guidelines.
Decisions laid down in the land-use section of the municipal master plan can be used to explain in more detail and specify the approved land-use plans. According to section 20-4 paragraph 2, litra b of the Planning and Building Act, provisions may be laid down governing the size and form of buildings and facilities and criteria for the location of different types of developments and land-use within the development areas. In this way, a further framework can be created for the design of the surroundings in addition to the applicable regulations. For example, it may be pertinent to lay down provisions for development areas that promote accessibility in the following areas:
- General provisions to promote accessibility in development areas
- Provisions regarding the order in which developments are undertaken
- Provisions regarding the design of buildings, facilities and outdoor areas
Where the Act does not provide a legislative basis for the formulation of provisions that promote accessibility, such provisions may be formulated as guidelines. These kinds of guidelines do not have legal effect, but they may be used as a basis for assessment when deciding individual cases. For example, provisions may not be laid down regarding important links in the system of communication. Guidelines may also be prepared for the processing of local development plans, building development plans, building projects and other individual matters.
5.8 Preparation of plans - the local development plan and the building development plan
In local development plans and building development plans, design that promotes good accessibility should be indicated on the planning maps and stipulated in the provisions and in any supplementary guidelines that may exist. In this way, it is possible to ensure, for example, compliance with the requirements laid down in the Technical Building Regulations and that solutions that are not covered by the regulations are included in the design process. This will also ensure that affected parties are given rights of access to plans and the opportunity to express an opinion regarding the chosen solutions by means of public inspection.
The following points are not exhaustive and vary in degree of detail, but nevertheless they provide some ideas regarding ways in which accessibility can be ensured in connection with the design of details on the planning maps and/or as provisions:
- Sufficient breadth in pedestrian areas
- Pedestrian areas that are free from obstacles and steps. Marking of pedestrian crossing points (for example, by means of a difference in height of 20 mm) where necessary
- Inclines that are not too steep
- Flat, non-slip floor surfaces
- Ramps instead of steps
- Continuous lines of access - either natural or artificial - allowing people with poor vision to find their way about
- Clear, unambiguous visual information
- 5-10 % of car parking spaces designed, reserved, marked and signposted for people with reduced mobility
In order to safeguard the needs and interests of people with environmental handicaps, guidelines may be formulated for the local development plan and building development plan with the aim of avoiding allergy-inducing pollen in planted areas. This may be particularly important in kindergartens and schools.
The Ministry of the Environment will follow up this circular with more detailed material that provides concrete examples and guidelines.
Appendix 1 to Part 1: Relevant Acts of law, regulations and circulars
The following Acts of law, regulations and circulars define the various interests and considerations in more detail.
The Ministry of the Environment:
Circular T-2/98 "National objectives and interests in the county municipal and municipal planning"
Circular T-1/97 with a summary of the provisions regarding consequence analysis pursuant to the Planning and Building Act, in which those measures encompassed by the provisions are described in detail. This circular indicates that the purpose of the provisions is to give interest organisations and the public greater opportunity to participate in public planning by means of broader circulation of official reports and the results of consequence analyses for review and comment, and by means of participation in public meetings regarding the analyses.
A separate handbook has been compiled for work on individual issues that are affected by these provisions (T-1177). Issues dealt with in this handbook and that may affect people with disabilities in particular include pollution (chap. 13.2) and emissions to air (chap. 13.2.1), and society (chap. 15).
Circular T-1057: "Guidelines for the planning of national and county roads in accordance with the Planning and Building Act"
Circular T-5/93: "National policy guidelines for co-ordinated land-use and transport planning"
Circular T-4/98: "National policy guidelines to promote the interests of children and adolescents in planning"
Circular T-5/95: "Guidelines for using the powers of objection in planning matters pursuant to the Planning and Building Act"
Act no. 16 of 28 June 1957 relating to Outdoor Recreation (Circular T-6/97)
In the preamble to the Act, it is stated that the purpose of the Act is to "protect the natural basis for outdoor recreation and to safeguard the public right of access to and passage through the countryside and the right to spend time there, etc., so that opportunities for outdoor recreation as a leisure activity that is healthy, environmentally sound and gives a sense of well-being are maintained and promoted".
Circular regarding grants and lending schemes
This circular deals in particular with appropriations for promotion of outdoor activities. It emphasises the significance of measures that will make it easier for new groups of users to use outdoor areas (section 1.9.2). It also stipulates that the central government may make funds available for facilities, installations and devices that promote the use of outdoor areas by disabled people (section 1.11.2). This circular is revised each year.
Circular H-7/97: "Provisions regarding aesthetics in the Planning and Building Act"
This circular discusses the connection between aesthetics and ease of orientation, which often affects accessibility.
Several other ministries administer other parts of the legislation and have issued regulations and circulars that affect the national objective of promoting better accessibility for all. In this respect, the following documents are particularly important:
The Ministry of Health and Social Affairs:
Act no. 66 of 19 November 1982 relating to the Municipal Health Services
In the preamble to the Act, it is stated that "through its health service, the municipality shall promote public health and well-being and good social and environmental conditions, and seek to prevent and to treat illness, injuries and physical defects". According to section 1-4 of this Act, the municipalities must plan their health services in accordance with the Act relating to Planning and Trial Projects in Municipal Social and Health Services. This section also emphasises that "the health service shall contribute to the promotion of health considerations by other government agencies whose activities are of importance to the work of the health service. This kind of co-participation shall be achieved by means of advice and statements and by means of participation in any planning liaison bodies that may be established".
Act no. 68 of 19 November 1982 relating to Planning and Trial Projects in Municipal Social and Health Services
In the preamble to the Act, it is stated that "in order to ensure the best possible social service and health service within the framework of the existing and foreseeable resources, each municipality shall develop a plan for social services and the health service".
With regard to municipal planning pursuant to the Planning and Building Act, it is stated in section 6 that: "The municipality's plan for social services and the health service and the municipal development plans in accordance with the Planning and Building Act must be co-ordinated. Effort shall be made to ensure that the necessary co-ordination within the individual municipalities of measures pursuant to the Act and measures in other areas, such as, for example, schools and the employment sector, is achieved initially by means of comprehensive planning pursuant to the provisions of Planning and Building Act". Reference is also made to section 20-1, paragraph 2, of the Planning and Building Act, concerning the inclusion of sector plans in both the long-term and the short-term components of the Municipal Master Plan.
Act no. 76 of 8 November 1991 relating to Municipal and Country Municipal Councils for the Elderly
According to this Act, each municipality and county municipality shall have a council for the elderly that is elected by the municipal council and the county council (sections 1 and 5). In sections 3 and 7, it is stipulated that "the council for the elderly shall deal with all matters concerning living conditions for the elderly".
Act no. 81 0f 13 December 1991 relating to Social Services
The purpose of this Act is:
a. To promote financial and social security, to improve the living conditions of disadvantaged persons, to contribute to greater equality of human worth and to prevent social problems, and
b. To contribute to giving individuals opportunities to live and reside independently and to achieve an active and meaningful existence in community with others.
The Act relating to Social Services defines a number of rights regarding access to social assistance and housing for people in difficult situations and lays down a number of services that must be provided, such as the home help service, the family relief system and the social contact system.
Section 3-2, on co-operation with other sectors of the administration, states that "The social service shall help to see that other public agencies of importance to the work of the social service take social considerations into account. The social service shall co-operate with other sectors and levels of the administration when this can facilitate the performance of the tasks assigned to it according to the present Act. As part of its performance of such tasks, the social service shall issue statements and advice and take part in municipal and county municipal planning and in such co-operative agencies as are established. If the services to be provided by other parts of the administration for people with special needs for assistance are found to be unsatisfactory, the social service shall if necessary take the matter up with the person responsible. In the event of uncertainty or disagreement as to where the responsibility lies, the social service shall seek to clarify the issue".
With regard to participation from groups of citizens, it is stated in section 3-3 that "The social service shall co-operate with user-group organisations and with voluntary organisations which are engaged in the same tasks as the social service".
With regard to individual user participation, it is stated in section 8-4 that "The service to be offered shall as far as possible be planned in co-operation with the client. Great importance shall be attached to the client's opinion".
Circular I - 4/84: Act no. 68 of 19 November 1982 relating to Planning and Trial Projects in Municipal Social and Health Services - issued by the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs
According to this circular, the county governor bears the main responsibility in matters concerning the social services and the chief county medical officer bears the main responsibility in matters concerning the health service. Guidelines have been issued for the treatment of draft plans, dealing with matters such as user participation and intervention in connection with Municipal Master Plans.
On 3 September 1999, the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs approved new guidelines for municipal councils for people with disabilities. In section 2 "Objectives", it is stated:
"The municipal council on disability is an advisory body for the municipalities, central government agencies on the municipal level and other public bodies and institutions.
The county municipal council on disability is an advisory body for county municipalities, central government agencies on the county level, municipalities and other public bodies and organisations.
The municipal and county municipal councils work towards the political objective of full participation and equality of rights in society for people with disabilities. The United Nations' Standard Rules for the Equalisation of Opportunities for People with Disabilities shall be a central tool in this work".
In section 5, "The tasks of the council", it is stated that:
"The council discusses matters that are significant to people with disabilities.
The council shall provide the opportunity for debate between the members of the council and representatives of public bodies and institutions about issues of significance to persons with disabilities.
The council shall be informed continuously about all relevant issues that are being treated by municipalities and county municipalities respectively.
Government agencies collaborate with the council on matters that they are currently processing or that they are going to process. The council shall work to ensure that the experience and knowledge of the users is employed in the treatment of cases and in the planning process.
Matters must be presented to the council at an early stage in the procedure.
The councils are entitled to raise matters that they deem important for the welfare and equality of people with disabilities. Minutes from the meetings of the council shall be enclosed with the case documents that are submitted to the municipal and county municipal bodies that make the final decision in the case in hand.
The councils may also undertake information work vis-à-vis municipalities and county municipalities, central government agencies, organisations, the public, etc.
The council should take the initiative to enhance co-operation and co-ordination between municipalities, county municipalities and central government agencies in cases that are of interest to people with disabilities ".
The Ministry of Transport and Communications:
Act no. 23 of 21 June 1963 concerning Public Roads and Highways (The Roads Act)
This Act has a general section defining the purpose of the Act, where it is stated that roads and streets shall be "designed, built and laid out in such a way that the traffic on them moves in a manner that at all times serves the needs of the road users and society. A main priority for the roads administration authorities is to ensure that the movement of traffic is as safe and effective as possible and shows consideration for the people living next to them, the environment and other community interests".
Section 12 of the Roads Act indicates that all planning of public roads must comply with the provisions of the Planning and Building Act. In the National Policy Guidelines for Co-ordinated Land-use and Transport Planning mentioned above, it is stated that priority shall be given to meeting the needs of people with reduced mobility in all planning work.
In section 13, it is stated that the Ministry of Transport and Communications "will issue regulations concerning the building of public roads (the Road and Street Design handbook)".
In the Regulations of 24 March 1987 for the building of public roads, section 5 no. 2, it is stated that "consideration must be given to the circulation of pedestrian and bicycle traffic in connection with planning and building the roads network".
The Regulations concerning Road and Street Design (Handbook No. 017), issued by the Directorate of Public Roads
Handbook No. 017 "Road and street design" has been prepared on the basis of the regulations issued by the Ministry of Transport and Communications pursuant to section 13 of the Roads Act. These regulations provide a general framework for the design and required minimum standards for all public roads. Within the constraints defined by the regulations, the Directorate of Public Roads has been delegated the responsibility for laying down more detailed provisions, i.e. Handbook No. 017
"Road and street design".
The "Road and street design" handbook contains rules governing the calculation of the dimensions of developments and instructions regarding roads systems, roads standards, design details and other specialised subjects. This handbook also provides instructions regarding how traffic zones, service stations, lay-bys etc. should be adapted to meet the needs of people with disabilities.
The Norwegian Government's Plan of Action for the Disabled in the Transport Sector 1997
In this plan, it is stated that the Ministry of Transport and Communications will study and assess the question of whether to introduce new legislation or regulations to make it easier for people with disabilities to access means of transport.
The county municipalities' responsibility to provide local public transport, including transport for people with special needs, has been extended and the Ministry has now issued advisory guidelines on special transport for people with disabilities.
The Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development:
The Planning and Building Act (the part concerning buildings)
In the preamble to the Act, it is stated that at "by means of planning, and through special requirements concerning the individual building project, the Act shall promote a situation where the use of land and the buildings thereon will be of the greatest possible benefit to the individual and the community".
The special requirements laid down in the Technical Regulations under the Planning and Building Act
The Technical Building Regulations lay down detailed requirements for the design of housing and their outdoor areas, a range of public buildings owned by the government and private owners, including schools, kindergartens and work places. All public buildings must be fully accessible for people with reduced mobility and for people with impaired vision or hearing, although the requirements pertaining to residential buildings are less stringent. There are special supplementary requirements for the planning of schools and kindergartens.
The Norwegian State Housing Bank's rules for loans and grants
Accessibility for people with disabilities is a priority in the bank's requirements in connection with its loans for life-span dwellings (wheelchair-accessible homes) and its supplementary grants for housing qualities in connection with renovation and insulation, for improving outdoor areas and accessibility in housing areas and for promoting good building practices.
Act no. 107 of 25 September 1992 concerning Municipalities and County Municipalities (the Local Government Act)
There are many close and important links between the Planning and Building Act and the Local Government Act. The Local Government Act contains provisions concerning annual budgets, accounting procedures and annual reports. These provisions are central in relation to long-term and short-term local government planning pursuant to the Planning and Building Act (cf. chapter 8 of the Local Government Act, "Finance Plan - Annual Budget").
The Ministry of Cultural Affairs:
Circular V-0605 B "Eligibility requirements for an investment grant from central government and national lottery funds to build sports facilities and local or regional cultural buildings - special adaptation for people with disabilities".
There are detailed requirements regarding access to and furnishing of this type of building and facility if they are to be eligible for an investment grant. These requirements must be regarded in connection with the provisions in the Technical Building Regulations pertaining to commercial and public buildings.
The Ministry of Education, Research and Church Affairs:
Act no. 24 of 13 January 1969 concerning Primary and Lower Secondary Education and the Regulations concerning school rooms and equipment
In section 10 of the Act, it is stated that "the municipalities shall ensure the provision of suitable schools". In section 1-7 of the regulations, it is stated that "consideration must be shown to the special needs of the disabled" and that "each pupil shall have a work place adapted to his or her needs". In addition, the provisions in the Technical Building Regulations concerning commercial and public buildings apply.
The Ministry of Children and Family Affairs:
Act no. 19 of 5 May 1995 on Day Care Institutions
With regard to the design of kindergartens, it is stated in section 3 of the Act that "day care institutions shall have premises and outdoor areas that are suited to the age of the children and the amount of time they spend there". In section 9, it is stated that children with disabilities shall be given priority admission. As a rule, it is the provisions laid down in the Technical Building Regulations that apply with regard to how premises shall be adapted to suit the special needs of children with disabilities. In addition, the Ministry has issued advisory regulations stipulating the minimum amount of indoor space per child.
The Ministry of Labour and Government Administration:
Act no. 4 of 4 February 1977 relating to Worker Protection and Working Environment etc. (the Working Environment Act)
In section 13, no. 1 of the Working Environment Act, it is stated that "access roads, sanitation facilities, technical installations and equipment, etc. must as far as is possible and reasonable be designed and adapted to allow the occupationally disabled to work in the enterprise". These provisions must be regarded in relation to the requirements in the Technical Building Regulations concerning work places.
The Ministry of Justice:
Act of 10 February 1967 relating to Procedure in Cases concerning the Public Administration (the Public Administration Act)
In section 18 of the Act, it is stated that "a party has the right to acquaint himself with the documents in the case" and in section 28 concerning appeal against and reversal of administrative decisions, it is stated that "individual decisions may be appealed, by a party or another person having a legal interest in appealing the case".
These are general provisions regarding procedure in treatment of cases concerning the public administration that, for example, the interest organisations of people with disabilities as a party can use to gain powers of access to documentation and if necessary appeal a planning decision where physical accessibility is inadequate. In addition, the provisions of the Act concerning Public Access to Documents in the Public Administration (the Freedom of Information Act, no. 69 of 19 June 1970) apply, whereby any person may demand of the pertinent administrative agency to be apprised of the publicly disclosable contents of the documents in a specific case, notwithstanding that a particular document has been exempted from public disclosure pursuant to the provisions of this Act.
Appendix 2 to Part 1: Literature
National and central government regulations and guidelines
- Regulations concerning requirements for construction works and products for construction works - "the Technical Building Regulations", the Ministry of Local Government and Labour, 22 January 1997, no. 33
- "Ren teknisk" - Guide to the Technical Building Regulations, the National Office of Building Technology and Administration, 1998
- Handbook No. 017 "Road and street design", the Directorate of Public Roads, 1992
- Regulations concerning marginal values for local pollution and noise levels, SFT report no. 92:16, the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority
- Guide to the land-use section of the municipal master plan, the Ministry of the Environment, 1998
- Guide to "Development plan, building plan", the Ministry of the Environment, 1998
- "Provisions regarding aesthetics in the Planning and Building Act", circular H-7/97, the Ministry of Local Government and Labour and Ministry of the Environment, 1997
- Guide to aesthetics in planning and building matters, the Ministry of Local Government and Labour and the Ministry of the Environment, 1997
- Guide to location analysis - content and implementation, T-986, the Ministry of the Environment, 1993
Other background literature
- "Accessible outdoor areas", guide, the Norwegian Association of Disabled, 1998
- The "Byggforskserien" series of reports and handbooks published by the Norwegian Building Research Institute
- "Adaptation of the countryside for people with disabilities - ideas and advice", Nordland county municipality, 1995
- "User Participation in planning - adaptation of the local environment for people with disabilities ", the Norwegian State Council on Disability, 1995
- "Universal design, planning and design for all", the Norwegian State Council on Disability, 1999
- "The Image of the City", Kevin Lynch, 1960
- A guide to Universal Design, Kommuneforlaget, 1998
- I-0975 B: the Council on Disability's booklet of ideas, the Norwegian State Council on Disability, 1999
Titles in italics have not been mentioned in this circular, but they contain useful background material. See also the bibliography in "Accessible outdoor areas", mentioned above.
Part 2 - The Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development: The requirement for access to buildings - exemptions and dispensation
Report no. 8 to the Storting (St meld) (1998-99) regarding the Norwegian Government's plan of action for the disabled 1998-2001 attaches particular importance to the following four priority areas:
- an accessible society
- user participation in the planning process
- the rights of people with disabilities
- employment for people with disabilities
This circular and the plan of action for the disabled are both based on the principle of universal design. Universal design means creating physical solutions that can be used by all people, to as great an extent as possible, and refers to the design of outdoor areas, buildings, products and means of transport. The principle of universal design will improve the situation for people who have partial or permanent physical or mental disabilities, without entailing disadvantages for people without disabilities. The term "disabled" is used here to refer to people with reduced mobility, people with reduced ability to orient themselves and people with environmental disabilities. However, the last category is not relevant with regard to accessibility to buildings. Part 1, chapter 4 of this circular defines the concept "disabled" in more detail.
The purpose of this part of the circular is to clarify and underline the importance of ensuring that the principle of universal design is ascribed priority in the building authorities' treatment of applications for planning permission and approval of completed buildings. Correct application of the rules will render society more accessible and promote fulfilment of the objective of employment and social participation for people with disabilities.
The requirement for accessibility is laid down in section 77 of the Planning and Building Act, where requirements are set pertaining to the usability of buildings. The preamble to the Planning and Building Act (section 2) defines the purpose of the Act as to ensure that "the use of land and the buildings thereon will be of greatest possible benefit to the individual and the community", which indicates that accessibility must be satisfactory.
The more concrete rules regarding accessibility can be found in the Regulations concerning requirements for construction works and products for construction works (the Technical Regulations) of 22 January 1997 no. 33. The aim is that the requirements that have been laid down should be included as a natural prerequisite for everyone who is planning or undertaking a building project. By making fulfilment of the accessibility requirements an absolute condition for the person or body responsible for a building project, these considerations will be taken into account right from the very beginning - in the design phase of the project and at any pre-design conferences.
In connection with Report no. 8 to the Storting 1998-99 "The Norwegian Government's plan of action for disabled", the Storting's standing committee on heath and social affairs made the following statement in Report no. 85 to the Storting (1998-99) regarding the application of the legislation to implement the goals of the plan of action:
"The committee regards the legislation as an effective instrument for achieving the objective of physical accessibility and believes that the powers to grant dispensation from these kinds of provisions must be limited".
Consequently, this part of the circular will focus on the access to grant dispensation from the requirement for accessibility in the processing of applications for building projects. As a result of the fact that the requirements have been made even more performance-based, the question of exemption from requirements is now in a slightly different position. Nevertheless, the discussion is still important with regard to assessing whether the requirements are being complied with. Caution must be shown when granting dispensation from requirements, both in terms of the number of exemptions granted and with regard to approving individual solutions that do not meet the minimum requirements laid down in the building code.
This circular deals with the issue of access to buildings, as opposed to accessibility inside buildings. However, this should not be interpreted as meaning that it is easier to get dispensation from the requirement for accessibility inside buildings.
2. The requirements laid down in the Technical Building Regulations
Section 10 - 1 of the Regulations concerning requirements for construction works and products for construction works (the Technical Regulations) stipulates the general requirements regarding usability and specifies that the design of the building shall present good possibilities for use by people with impaired vision and people with impaired mobility.
Section 10 - 21 of the Technical Building Regulations is more specific and states:
"The access from a trafficable road to the main entrance, including the entrance itself, shall be easily found, easily used, be without hindrance and be adapted for people with impaired vision and people with impaired mobility, for:
- dwelling houses having a common entrance to more than 4 dwellings
- work buildings
- buildings which are open to the public.
If the building has a number of equivalent entrances, it is sufficient that the requirements are met for access to one entrance. Accesses which are usable for people with impaired vision and people with impaired mobility shall in that case be clearly and specially marked.
Where necessary due to the presumed use of the building, the local authority shall require that the access be adapted for people with impaired vision and people with impaired mobility.
For dwelling houses, where it is not required in accordance with the first or third clauses that access shall be adapted for people with impaired vision and people with impaired mobility, it shall none the less be shown in the plan how such adaptation may be done after the building has been taken into use".
The requirements in section 10 - 21 of the Technical Building Regulations apply to four types of buildings: residential buildings with a common entrance used by more than four homes, work places, public-access buildings and buildings that it is natural to assume people with disabilities will want to use.
The requirements apply to access to the building and shared entrances used by five or more dwellings. For residential buildings that are not covered by this rule, the building development plans illustrate how the access route can be adapted at a later date to make it accessible to people with disabilities. This rule applies to all types of residential building, regardless of the number of dwelling units.
This provision is a continuation and tightening up of the former regulations concerning the steepness of access to buildings.
The requirement for accessibility applies to all buildings in which there are work places. One of the goals of this requirement is to improve the opportunity for people with difficulties orienting themselves and people with reduced mobility to find employment. A key issue here is that proposed building projects shall be assessed in relation to all activities that they are capable of housing and not only the particular activities being performed there or which are planned to be performed there at the time of application. Activities in a building may change over time, and accessibility must be re-evaluated in connection with an application for a change of use.
The requirements apply to all public and private enterprises that are aimed at the public. The following types of buildings or parts of buildings must be accessible to the public: buildings that contain premises for service facilities (post offices, banks, libraries, etc.), entertainment (cinemas, theatres, museums, cultural complexes, etc.), overnight accommodation (hotels, guesthouses, etc.), community buildings (assembly rooms, sports centres, schools, educational institutions, etc.), institutions for the sick and for people who are elderly, offices that are open to the public, shops, restaurants, kiosks and public toilets.
For buildings that, on the basis of their presumed purpose, can be expected to have residents with poor mobility or difficulty orienting themselves (for example, housing for people who are elderly), the municipality should require that the access route to the building is adapted for people who have difficulty orienting themselves and people with reduced mobility.
The municipality shall require submission of adequate documentation of fulfilment of the requirements pursuant to the general requirements in sections 14 and 15 of the Regulations for processing applications and controlling building projects. If necessary, the municipality may also demand that the solutions to satisfy the accessibility requirement are mentioned specifically in the inspection plan. Once a project has been completed, it should be possible to ensure fulfilment of the requirements regarding accessibility by means of the provisions in section 99 of the Planning and Building Act regarding final inspection and certificate of completion.
The following publications contain detailed information about designing useful access routes and entranceways to buildings:
"Ren teknisk" Guide to the Technical Building Regulations under the Planning and Building Act 1997
The Norwegian Building Research Institute series no. 220.353 "People with poor vision and visual impairments"
The Norwegian Building Research Institute series no. 320.211 "Buildings in general. Adaptation for people with disabilities "
The Norwegian Building Research Institute series no. 323.101 "Entranceways"
The Norwegian Building Research Institute series no. 320.212 "Dimensioning for wheelchairs"
The Norwegian Standard NS 3931 "Electrical installations in homes"
The Norwegian Standard NS 3937 "Functional goals for the use of wheelchairs"
The Directorate of Public Roads' Handbook no. 017 "Road and street design"
We would also draw your attention to the fact that the Norwegian State Housing Bank sets higher standards for accessibility than the minimum requirements stipulated in the regulations, in particular in connection with applications for supplementary grants and loans schemes.
3. Assessment of whether the requirements have been met
The Technical Building Regulations lay down a number of requirements regarding performance levels. This means that the requirements in section 10 - 21 of the Technical Building Regulations are not absolute, but allow the person responsible for the building project to choose solutions that can be documented as being satisfactory in relation to the requirements in the relevant provisions. The guidelines to the Technical Building Regulations 1997 contain a number of recommendations, but it is important to note that the regulations also allow for alternative solutions - on the condition that the applicant can document that they comply with the requirements regarding performance levels in the Technical Building Regulations. In this connection, reference is made to the introduction in the guidelines to the Technical Building Regulations:
"It must be completely clear that the pre-accepted solutions given in the guidelines are not regulations, but are descriptions of solutions that satisfy the regulations. With sufficient knowledge and tools, it is possible to document good alternative solutions by means of analysis and calculation. The intention behind the regulations is to ensure that safe, good and user-friendly buildings are legal, even if they deviate from traditional solutions, as long as their suitability can be documented".
Although the former rules were also performance-based, they nevertheless contained a number of concrete requirements. These concrete requirements have now been moved to the guidelines, which simply indicate one "pre-accepted" way of meeting the requirements regarding performance levels. In general, the guidelines give the required performance levels, which may in turn be based on other sources that indicate concrete solutions, such as standards, building research design sheets, pre-accepted solutions, etc.
The performance requirements may also be met in other ways than by using the examples given in guidelines, in which case documentation must be provided that the requirements have been satisfied; for example, drawings, calculations, other solution models, etc. These may be based on reports, analyses, etc. Documentation must be provided that these solutions achieve basically the same level as the examples in the guidelines to the Technical Building Regulations.
To this end, it is important to be aware of the fact that what it was previously common practice to regard as non-compliance with the requirements (dispensation) is now to be considered as either:
- an alternative means of fulfilling the requirements in the regulations, or
- dispensation from the requirements in the regulations.
In other words, if a deficiency in one area is compensated for by advantages in other areas that together meet the performance requirements, then the building application should not be regarded as an application for dispensation from the requirements. This also entails that there is less need to use the rights to grant dispensation than previously.
Accessibility in terms of access to buildings is not a situation that typically provides opportunity for a wide range of alternative solutions that satisfy the performance requirements. The guidelines contain instructions regarding breadth, steepness and other properties of accessways, and the standard solutions will probably be used in most cases. In general, non-compliance with the required standards laid down in the guidelines will be considered as dispensation. By contrast, if an overall solution is proposed that differs from those suggested in the guidelines, but which offers an equally good solution as a whole, then this is not a question of dispensation, but an assessment of whether the requirements in the regulations have been satisfied.
The remaining sections of this part of the circular deal with cases where dispensation is being applied for, i.e. building projects in which there are no projected compensatory measures that together constitute an overall solution that fulfils the performance requirements.
4. Exemption from the requirements in the Technical Building Regulations - section 7 of the Planning and Building Act
According to section 7 of the Planning and Building Act, there is opportunity to grant dispensation from provisions given in or pursuant to the Planning and Building Act. The first and second paragraphs of the section read as follows:
"Section 7 - Dispensation
When special reasons exist for doing so, the municipality, unless otherwise stipulated in the provisions or the plan concerned, may after application grant permanent or temporary dispensation from provisions contained in this Act, by-laws or regulations. The authority to reach decisions regarding dispensation from the part of the Municipal Master Plan referring to land-use, a Local Development Plan or a Building Development Plan is, unless otherwise stipulated in the plan concerned, ascribed to the permanent committee for planning matters pursuant to section 9-1 of this Act. The conditions for granting dispensation from plans or provisions contained in the plans mentioned in the sentence above are the same as those mentioned after the first comma in the first sentence. The permanent committee for planning matters is also ascribed authority to grant dispensation pursuant to sections 17-2, 23 and 33 in the present Act. The dispensation may be made subject to conditions.
Temporary dispensation may be granted for a specific period or for an indefinite period and implies that the applicant, when the period of dispensation has expired, or by order and without cost to the municipality, must remove or alter that which has been constructed or discontinue the temporarily permitted use or comply with the requirement for which postponement has been granted, and if required, restore the property to its previous state. The dispensation may be made subject to a declaration where also the owner (lessee) on his part accepts these obligations. It may be required that the declaration be registered. It is binding on the mortgagee and other possessors of rights to a property regardless of when the right was established and regardless of whether the declaration is registered".
Thus, the general starting point is that dispensation should not be viewed as a viable option. The requirements in the Planning and Building Act regarding buildings and the provisions that have been stipulated under it are founded on a weighing up of which requirements it is reasonable to set to a project against the interests that are to be safeguarded. The objectives of the Planning and Building Act will be central to this kind of assessment. Other factors may also be relevant, but should not be ascribed such importance. This entails that the more important the requirement that is not fulfilled, the more pressing the case for dispensation must be.
Section 7 stipulates that there must be "special reasons" for granting dispensation. This requirement is regarded as an unconditional prerequisite for dispensation. "Special reasons" means that there must be real grounds for not following the general solution of the rule.
The rules in the Technical Building Regulations regarding access for people with reduced mobility and difficulties orienting themselves have been passed with the goal of ensuring that as many people as possible will be able to use institutions that are aimed at the public. Since the requirements in the Technical Building Regulations are performance-based and thus in essence do not allow for alternative solutions, there are very few cases in which sufficient "special reasons" will exist. This is related to the fact that non-compliance with the requirements laid down in the regulations will generally entail that the purpose of the regulations is not being upheld, at the same time as this is in fact unnecessary, since there are several alternative solutions for fulfilment of the requirements.
On page 9 of the guidelines to the Technical Building Regulations, in the section on dispensation, it is stated that: "In respect of the provisions regarding accessibility to and within buildings for people with disabilities, this is a minimum requirement compliance with which is very much in the public interest. For this reason, the "special reasons" that have to exist for dispensation from the provisions to be granted will be relatively difficult to achieve".
4.2. Types of project
4.2.1 Construction of new buildings
In connection with applications for planning permission for new buildings, the starting point will be that there must be pressing extenuating circumstances for dispensation from the requirements regarding accessibility in the Technical Building Regulations to be granted. At this stage, there is every opportunity to adapt the building to meet the relevant requirements. The requirements regarding accessibility are as binding on applicants as the requirements regarding good use of space, height, etc. The planners are therefore responsible for adapting the project to these rules and cannot expect the municipality to grant them dispensation.
4.2.2 Alteration to existing constructions
The situation may be somewhat different in connection with applications for extensions, additions and alterations. When projects of this kind are going to be undertaken or an existing project is going to be altered, it is easy for the situation to arise where implementation of the requirements for access may entail problems that can be used as valid grounds for exemption from the requirements (see the section on "special reasons" below). For example, it is often more difficult to set the same requirement for accessibility in connection with an attic conversion in an old tenement building than it is in a new building.
In connection with an extension, addition or alteration, requirements will in general only be set for the new construction. If the existing construction does not fulfil the requirements in the Technical Building Regulations and this is based on legal grounds, then it is not possible to require that the main part of the building be adapted to meet the new requirements.
However, as a starting point, the rules will apply in full for the actual extension, addition or alteration itself. As a rule, dispensation can only be granted on the basis of the fact that the relationship between the design of the existing construction and that of the new construction will render this difficult or inappropriate, as in the example of an attic conversion. Nor should dispensation be granted for anything other than that which is strictly necessary.
In the event of a change of use of a building from one purpose to another, the starting point will be that all the rules that apply to the type of building for which planning permission is being applied must be adhered to (cf. section 93 of the Planning and Building Act). In some cases, the change in use will entail that the building moves from one category of use, where the requirements regarding accessibility do not apply, to a different category that is subject to the provisions.
It is also possible for the municipality to grant dispensation pursuant to section 88 of the Planning and Building Act, which deals with "Changes, repair or change of use etc. of existing buildings". However, this provision has a different basis of assessment to the one pursuant to section 7 of the Act. For example, the requirement for "special reasons" does not apply to section 88, but this provision can only be applied when it is deemed reasonable on the basis of health, fire-precaution or other technical provisions. The requirement entails that it is reasonable to grant dispensation and assumes that the undertaking does not deviate from the statutory provisions in any other way.
Nevertheless, it must be pointed out that section 88 of the Planning and Building Act does not exclude the possibility that the provisions in section 7 of the Act can be applied to the construction project pursuant to section 87 of the Planning and Building Act. The Ministry advises very restricted use of section 88.
The power of municipalities to use section 89, second paragraph of the Planning and Building Act, which includes an order to improve the standard of existing constructions, presupposes that the Ministry has issued detailed regulations on this matter. The Ministry is going to review this matter.
4.2.3 Public buildings
In connection with public buildings, a special responsibility lies with the public body responsible for the project to ensure that the requirements regarding accessibility are fulfilled. As a general rule, building projects initiated by government agencies will house an activity that is aimed at the public or that may be suitable as a work place for people with disabilities. In the case of an activity that is aimed at the public, it would also go against the principle of an open government administration if the technical solutions in the building did not provide adequate accessibility for all the users.
The government administration should demonstrate through its own building activities that it regards the requirements for accessibility as a natural prerequisite in the design and implementation of construction projects. Dispensation from the requirements would set a bad example and undermine the provisions as a means to create a society that is accessible to all its members.
4.3. "Special reasons"
In respect of the requirement for accessibility, there may be considerations that indicate that the requirements can be departed from. The most commonly cited reasons are financial, aesthetic or heritage considerations. The assessment of whether the reason quoted does in fact constitute a satisfactory "special reason" may also depend on the type of project, i.e. whether it is a new construction, an extension or alteration, a conversion or a change in the use of the building.
An increase in building costs is not necessarily ascribed greater importance than, say, the requirements regarding safety or good use of space. For this kind of argument to be ascribed importance, there must be a background of extraordinarily large expenses as a result of factors beyond the control of the body responsible for the project. However, this is often not apparent until after the application has been approved. The fact that the undertaking has already been designed or built when it is discovered that certain elements are not sufficiently adapted to the needs of people with disabilities in accordance with the requirements does not qualify as an acceptable special reason to be granted dispensation.
In some cases, if the requirements cannot be implemented without extensive reconstruction, this may be regarded as sufficient grounds for granting dispensation, but as a general rule, this will not apply to new buildings. In this type of assessment, a decisive factor will be whether it is possible to use the building for a different profitable purpose.
Another acceptable "special reason" is that the requirements for accessibility entail a breach with the architectural concept behind the design of the building. This is not a valid argument in connection with new buildings. The access solution must be regarded as an integral part of the necessary conditions that all parties initiating a building project have to take into account when designing a project. It is therefore the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that the requirements are fulfilled within an aesthetically satisfactory design of the undertaking. It should be emphasised that there is no necessary conflict of interests between aesthetics and the performance requirements with regard to access, especially in the case of new buildings.
In connection with a change in use or conversion of an existing building, problems pertaining to aesthetic considerations may play a more prominent part, since the solution will usually be bound by existing constraints. An assessment must be made regarding the scope of the aesthetic discordance of the project - both in its own right and in relation to the surroundings - weighed up against the strong public interest in achieving access that complies with the regulations. The assessment must also take account of the fact that the body responsible for the project is responsible for finding aesthetic solutions for the building as a whole, including satisfaction of the requirements for accessibility, and that this must be done in an aesthetically pleasing way. Thus, it is unlikely that aesthetic considerations will qualify as an acceptable "special reason" for insufficient compliance with the requirements for accessibility.
It can be particularly difficult to ensure fulfilment of the requirements regarding accessibility in protected and listed buildings. The assessment must take account of the preservation value of the building weighed up against the degree to which the proposed solution marks a breach with the authentic appearance of the building.
However, a great deal of importance shall be attached to the issue of accessibility when considering this against preserving the original appearance of the building. It will be relevant to look at the correlation between the change in the project and the history of the building and the expert considerations on which the preservation order was passed.
4.4. Treatment of applications by the municipality
In section 7 of the Planning and Building Act, it is stated that the municipality may grant dispensation. Even if the requirement for special reasons has been met, it is up to the professional judgement of the municipality to decide if it wants to grant dispensation. The freedom granted to the municipality to use its discretion in cases does not mean that it is has total autonomy to decide. Reasons must be given for its decision, whether it denies or accepts an application for dispensation from requirements. The fact that the municipality has decided to apply certain principles in relation to granting dispensation from certain rules in the building code and that no good reason has been found to suggest the need to depart from these principles in the case in hand, generally constitutes tenable grounds for denying an application for dispensation. Nevertheless, it must be clear that the municipality has considered the details of the specific application for dispensation from requirements, including the applicant's reasons and other relevant arguments.
In addition, there will be certain limits to the practice of professional judgement in relation to the "may" assessment. Each case must be evaluated, but the relevance and weighting of the different elements and factors must be consistent for all applications for dispensation. According to administrative law, similar cases shall receive similar treatment. For this reason, the municipality must ensure that it does not discriminate illegally between cases. Nevertheless, the municipality is entitled to tighten up a previously liberal practice without this being regarded as differential treatment, on the condition that the new practice is applied consistently.
By contrast, the municipality is not allowed to judge freely whether there are adequate special reasons for granting dispensation. This is a case of assessment according to the application of the law, which entails that the municipality must accept the reasons if they lie within the bounds of what is normally accepted as an eligible special reason. In the event of a decision being appealed, it is the county governor that will assess whether the cited grounds represent an accepted interpretation of the concept of "special reasons". Reference is also made to the circular issued by the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development regarding guidelines for procedure and appeal in administrative cases pursuant to section 34 of the Public Administration Act.
In order to ensure that the affected parties are given the opportunity to voice their opinions and that the case is as well publicised as possible, the municipality should consider establishing a routine whereby all applications for dispensation from the accessibility requirements are submitted to the council on disability and similar organisations and, if appropriate, the municipal council for the elderly, so that they can express their opinions before the municipality decides whether to grant dispensation or not. Although, user participation is not a legal prerequisite in the consideration of each individual application for building permission, municipalities are urged to consult the users in the processing of building applications where there is no question of granting dispensation from the requirements regarding accessibility.