Bushy Park and Richmond Park
Proudlock Associates were proud to be appointed to deliver an accessibility audit in Richmond Park and Bushy Park, which are managed by The Royal Parks charity.
The aim of the audit was to recommend inclusive design improvements in consideration of the recently endorsed traffic restrictions (implemented as part of the wider Royal Parks Movement Strategy). The aim of the Movement Strategy is to reduce the number of vehicles using the parks as a shortcut, which will ideally enhance the park environment and the visitor experience.
Proudlock Associates were asked to assess how any negative consequences, particularly towards disabled people, could be eliminated and inclusive design could be improved.
What did we do?
Proudlock Associates’ auditors examined key facilities which disabled people would potentially use during any visit to Richmond or Bushy Park. The pedestrian gates around the parks’ perimeter and several internal gates were audited, along with the car parks, toilets, road crossings and various surfaces. We also considered the bus stops at Richmond Park, utilised by the twice-daily free minibus service.
We used the building regulations Access to & Use of Buildings: Approved Document M and British standards BS8300 Design of an Inclusive & Accessible Environment Volume 1 External Environment as a reference for both overall compliance, and progress towards good practice.
What did we find?
Both audits focused on potential areas of improvement and provided a priority rating for the recommendations made. This enables clients to use the audit to prioritise future works.
There was some potential for the Royal Parks Movement Strategy to exacerbate existing issues. Conducting an audit gives The Royal Parks an awareness of potential non-compliance or not-so-good examples, before implementing further changes which could present further issues. For instance, the many shared surfaces around the parks used by both pedestrians and cyclists.
The audit also looked to the future and suggested improvements, for example, to public toilets; these facilities are vital in such a large natural environment, especially for disabled people (and their support workers), elderly people and younger children. Providing an access audit i.e. a detailed assessment that focusses on inclusive design and accessibility that has prioritised recommendations (with guidance given on carrying them out) enables future works to be better coordinated, saving the client time and money.
But what happens in the interim?
In an ideal world, all the recommendations would be implemented immediately, but we know that this is unrealistic, particularly in the current economic climate. So, we have been careful to suggest interim solutions, such as providing more detailed information online or over the phone, assisting disabled people to appreciate the status of facilities before they visit, and plan their journeys accordingly. For instance, this would allow a mobility scooter or wheelchair user to look up which gates were more accessible and hence to plan their visit. We acknowledge that these measures are not long-term solutions but should markedly improve the experience of disabled users while more complex or expensive works are being completed.
The role of an access audit within a wider scheme of works
With any change, particularly to the built environment, there’s always a risk that it may negatively affect individuals protected by the Equality Act 2010. Equally, there is also an opportunity to make improvements. As such, we were delighted that The Royal Parks called on our knowledge and expertise to provide a prioritised set of recommendations for improvements.
At Proudlock Associates we see access audits as being critically important pieces of work. These reports can be a great discussion point for planning ahead. They can also identify existing gaps in the facilities, and act as a guide for mapping how shortfalls can be addressed. It is also important that when changes are made or new facilities are introduced, the client can use the access audit as a reasoned prioritised checklist to tick items off as they make progress!
So, what's next?
At Proudlock Associates, our current phase of work has finished with The Royal Parks. We have delivered both audit reports and facilitated summary discussions outlining the critical points with the teams at both parks. We wish The Royal Parks all the best in implementing its Movement Strategy and we look forward to seeing our recommendations remove barriers and make the parks even more enjoyable to even more people!