RIBA president also scolds government for not reassuring EU architects in Queen’s Speech

RIBA president Jane Duncan has said architects are ready and willing to help the Grenfell fire public inquiry in any way.

Jane Duncan

Jane Duncan

She said: “The RIBA called for a public enquiry in the immediate aftermath of the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower and our expert members are keen to provide every assistance to it.”

Her offer was part of the RIBA’s reaction to yesterday’s Queen’s Speech.

Architect and tall buildings safety campaigner Sam Webb is one of those who have already contributed to the debate about the key issues to be examined by the inquiry.

Webb, who was an expert witness at the Lakanal House fire inquest, wrote in the Guardian that “those of us who have campaigned over the years for greater fire safety in buildings have been ignored, ridiculed and sometimes physically threatened.”

In her response she also criticised the government for again failing to give British-based architects from EU countries any reassurance about their right to remain.

She also highlighted other issues including the importance of not sacrificing design in the rush to meet vital housing targets.

And she also told ministers that initial spending on good design could help save £150 million from the school maintenance budget.

RIBA reaction to the Queen’s Speech

RIBA President Jane Duncan said:

On Brexit:

“While we note the commitment to ensuring that the UK can continue to attract the brightest and the best post Brexit, we are very disappointed that there is still no further clarity for our non-UK EU national architect colleagues, who make such a fantastic contribution to the UK economy and to the quality of the built environment in the UK and across the world.

“We welcome the focus on Britain as a global trading nation, with the introduction of the Trade Bill, but it is vital that any new customs arrangements do not hinder the growth of the highly successful UK architecture sector. The trade support proposed must be available to and appropriate for businesses of all sizes, including the SMEs that make up 90% of architecture practices. 

“Given the scale of the challenges ahead, the RIBA will continue to press the government to ensure that the Brexit that is negotiated supports UK architects to thrive.”

Repeal Bill:

“To maintain the UK’s high environmental standards, many of which come from the EU, it is crucial that the Repeal Bill does not create ‘zombie legislation’, whereby EU legislation is transposed into UK law but is no longer updated, has no body enforcing it, and can be eroded through statutory instruments with minimal parliamentary scrutiny.”

On climate change:

“It is welcome to see the commitment to adopting the Paris Agreement. However if the government is serious about reasserting its global leadership on climate change, it must start adding detail to its domestic climate change policy. This should include fulfilling its legal obligation to publish a clean growth plan, which must address the gaping policy void on energy efficiency in the built environment.”

On housing:

“We are pleased to see the government’s commitment to fairness and transparency in the housing market and to implementing the Housing White Paper. We urgently need more homes but it is vital they are of a high quality. High standards must not be sacrificed in the panic to meet necessary, but demanding, housing targets.”

On Grenfell Tower:

“The RIBA called for a public enquiry in the immediate aftermath of the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower and our expert members are keen to provide every assistance to it.” 

On schools:

“As the government looks again at funding for schools, it is crucial that the benefits and savings achieved from high-quality design are part of the mix. The RIBA’s research shows that – at a time that many schools are feeling the pinch – £150 million a year is wasted because of unnecessary maintenance and service that could have been avoided through better design.