City in sight: building accessibility into London
By Mark Wenlock – Group Managing Director, Developments – Chelsfield

Insights 24th July, 2020 in Europe

Accessibility for all is a challenge for major cities around the world, and London is no exception. The UK capital’s success means those with different accessibility needs have to navigate a city that is large, densely populated and reliant on a complex transport system.

Research from AccessAble, a charity which provides information on accessibility of different locations, estimates that 98% of people with accessibility needs check location criteria before visiting a place for the first time. In addition, three quarters of people with accessibility needs have decided not to visit a place because there is little or no information about accessibility.

One major challenge is public transport. In a city of London’s density, the public infrastructure system is integral to everyone’s lives, for work and leisure. As a real estate developer, connectivity is an important factor for success, so we need to make sure that transport is accessible for everyone.

The Mayor of London has pledged to add 30 more step-free stations to the tube network by 2022, and we have supported tube accessibility where possible.  For example, on the Knightsbridge Estate, where we are Development Manager for the owner, The Olayan Group, we have worked closely with Transport for London and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, to design and deliver a new step-free ticket hall and elevator access to the Piccadilly line. 

We are also committed to working with the local authorities to improve accessibility around our projects by enhancing pathways and road systems, which can again be seen from our work on the Knightsbridge Estate.

The public realm has enormous potential to enhance the quality of life for all, including those with special access needs. We actively seek to incorporate public spaces into our projects, such as piazzas, pocket parks and break-out spaces, as can be seen from our Holland Green development, Kensington, London, for example. 

In all our projects, accessibility and inclusivity starts with the planning process. We ensure that we engage with all parts of the local community and work closely with the local authority to meet the needs of those that live and work in and around our projects.

Like all major cities, an imperfect canvas does not stop London aspiring to be an inclusive place, and we think it is important to be part of making the UK capital accessible to all.