Tuesday22 August 2017

Architects praise Lords for demanding joined-up design policy

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Committee recommends built environment adviser and mandatory design review

A House of Lords committee set up to look at housing policy has warned the government will fail to hit its target of building 240,000 homes a year if it relies on private developers alone.

The Building Better Places report, published today, was welcomed by architects and planners including Jane Duncan who said it contained a number of recommendations from the RIBA. The House of Lords Select Committee on National Policy for the Built Environment was set up last year as a result of the Farrell Review.

It urges the government to give local authorities and housing associations more money and flexibility so they can deliver homes themselves in order to boost the country’s overall number of housing completions.

It also calls for creation of a chief built environment advisor, who would integrate policy across central government departments, act as a “champion for higher standards” and “promote good practice”.     

The report also calls for the government to reverse its decision to remove the zero carbon homes policy and the Code for Sustainable Homes.

It says the decisions to axe the policies are “likely to add to long-term housing costs through a reduction in energy efficiency” and adds there is “no clear evidence that they will lead to an increase in housebuilding”.

Commenting on the report, committee chairman Baroness O’Cathain said: “It is increasingly clear that we need to build more houses in England and we wholeheartedly support that objective.

“However if we build those houses in the wrong place, to a poor standard, without the consent of local communities we are only storing up future misery for the people in those houses and others nearby.

“That is why we are recommending local authorities are once again empowered both to build new homes of their own, and to ensure all developments are of a suitably high quality.

“Spending a little bit extra on good quality design at the outset can avert massive costs to people, society and government in the long run.”

RIBA president Jane Duncan said: “I welcome this important report by the House of Lords. The RIBA will now get to work with our members and other professionals in the built environment to ensure these important policies are adopted by government.”

She said a number of the recommendations came from the RIBA including the appointment of a chief built environment adviser, mandatory design review for all major planning applications and the formation of a high-level government policy for architecture and place quality in England.

Kate Henderson, chief executive of the TCPA, said: “The committee is right to focus on the quality of places that we create, rather than just housing numbers. I hope that the government heeds the advice from the House of Lords as it consults on further detail in the Housing & Planning Bill.”

The report comes as the government publishes its technical consultation for the Housing & Planning Bill, which is currently at committee stage in the Lords. Henderson said many of the proposals in the bill run counter to the recommendations in today’s report.

Matthew Carmona, chair of the Place Alliance which was set up in the wake of the Farrell Review, is a specialist advisor to the Lords select committee. He urged policymakers to take their proposals seriously.

“At its core is a recommendation that, as a nation, we need to aim higher in how we plan, design and manage our built environment,” he said. “Also that the leadership and ambition to do this needs to begin with government.

“Too often as a nation we have focused on the quantity of development and the speed of our regulatory processes and, while these matters are important, they should not be at the expense of a clear vision of the sorts of places and communities that we wish to see.

“Building Better Places argues for a place-centred approach to policy at national and local levels and this has to be right.”



Readers' comments (2)

  • Great to hear that the idea of quality in construction and place-making is being embraced in certain quarters. May the Lords recommendations be listened to! Barbara Weiss

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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    First of all the Lords need to throw out the Housing Bill, or drastically amend it, because if not the only housing any architects will be designing will be the "starter homes" that no normal Londoner can afford.

    Kill the Housing Bill


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