External steps and ramps are one of the few areas of work where a landscape architect may need to refer to the Building Regulations Approved Documents. There is no obligation to adopt a particular solution contained in the Approved Document if you prefer to meet the relevant requirement in some other way. If your site does not include access to and from a building, the Building Regulations do not apply. However, the access solutions included in the Approved Documents may still be appropriate and will at least provide you with some guidelines upon which you could base your detailed design.

The aim of Building Regulation Approved Document part M Access to and use of buildings is to provide a suitable means of access for people from the entrance point at the site boundary, and from any car parking on the site, to a building. It is also important that routes between buildings within a complex are accessible to all and that the change in level between the site boundary, or car parking, and the building entrance is minimized.

The 2004 edition of the part M Approved Document is derived from BS 8300 Design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people – Code of Practice and includes the concept of an ‘Access Statement’. The statement is intended to assist the building control officer to make a judgement on the reasonableness of the proposed access arrangements. It should include: details of the philosophy and approach to inclusive design adopted, the key issues of the particular scheme and the sources of advice and guidance used.

An additional benefit of providing an access statement is that it should set out most of the information needed by a building control body, thus assisting the dialogue between the applicant and the building control officer. It is recommended that an access statement is provided to identify the philosophy and approach to inclusive design adopted, particularly when the approach taken to satisfying the requirements differs from that represented by the guidance in the Approved Document.