Simon Allford says new government must reform the planning system and implement a national retrofit strategy

RIBA has said incoming prime minister Rishi Sunak must provide people and businesses with “reasurance and stability” following his victory in the race to become the UK’s next prime minister.

Simon Allford, the institute’s president, said the former chancellor faced “tumultuous times” and tackling soaring inflation, surging energy prices and worsening crises for housing and the climate would be ”no mean feat”.

Rishi Sunak 24 Oct 2022

Rishi Sunak speaking at the Conservative Party headquarters today following his victory in the contest to be the UK’s next prime minister

Sunak’s leadership rival Penny Mordaunt pulled out of the leadership race this afternoon just minutes before the results of the final round of voting were due to be announced, meaning the decision over the UK’s new leader will no longer be taken by Conservative party members.

Speaking at the Conservative party headquarters, Sunak warned that the UK faced a “profound” economic crisis and said he intended to serve the country with “integrity and humility”.

He will become this year’s third prime minister and will replace Liz Truss just seven weeks after he lost this summer’s leadership race.

Allford said the new government must ensure the UK has the housing it needs, create a “well-resourced and efficient” planning system, implement a national retrofit strategy, and embed a clear and effective building safety regime.   

He added that RIBA will be engaging with the new prime minister and his government immediately.

UK Green Building Council director of communications Simon McWhirter said the change of leadership was a chance for a fresh start and to put in place strategic long-term policies on addressing energy security, cost of living and threats to nature and the climate.

“Greening homes, offices, public buildings and infrastructure is a massive growth opportunity for UK PLC and one the new Prime Minister can’t afford to miss as he seeks to steady the ship of government and charts a fresh course,” McWhirter said.

He also urged Sunak to scrap outgoing prime minister Liz Truss’ “unwise” proposals for low-tax ’investment zones’ which would see planning and environmental protections watered down.

”Businesses don’t want a race to the bottom. Instead, they need certainty and ambition to deliver much-needed green growth and investment. That’s why our planning system needs to be overhauled to bring it into line with the UK’s legally-binding climate and nature commitments,” McWhirter said.


Source: Shutterstock

Rishi Sunak is set to become the UK’s youngest prime minister this century

Sunak secured the support of more than half of Conservative MPs with the numbers of his declared backers swelling dramatically after former prime minister Boris Johnson backed out of the election yesterday evening.

The result will make Sunak the UK’s first British Indian prime minister and the first person of Hindu faith to lead the country. He will also be this century’s youngest PM, at the age of 42.

Mordaunt announced she was abandoning her bid shortly before the final round of parliamentary voting was due to be announced by Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs. 

Her campaign team had claimed this afternoon to be just a few names short of the 100 MPs needed for a valid nomination, although she had just 27 publicly declared backers. 

Sunak officially announced his bid only yesterday, saying he wanted to “fix our economy, unite our party and deliver for our country”. He added that there would be “integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level of the government”.

Support for the former chancellor among Conservative MPs had grown in recent weeks after many of the predictions he had made over the summer about Liz Truss’ tax-cutting economic agenda, including that it would lead to rising interest rates, proved to be true.

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association said Sunak’s overwhelming priority must be to restore stability to British politics and called on him to embrace infrastructure for growth policies. The trade body’s director of operations Marie-Claude Hemming said: “We hope the new Prime Minister will not repeat the mistakes made in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, when capital spending was cut too far and too fast, and economically viable projects were cancelled for short-termist reasons - often to the detriment of the taxpayer, as they had to be re-procured at greater cost at a later date.”

Industry reacts to Rishi Sunak’s victory

RIBA president Simon Allford:

“In these tumultuous times, people and businesses across the country need reassurance and stability – Rishi Sunak must provide this.  

 With inflation soaring, energy prices surging, and the housing and climate crises worsening, achieving this will be no mean feat.   

The Government must recognise that in addition to construction being a key driver of growth, buildings are long term assets - critical to our quality of life and wellbeing. Architects and the wider built environment sector stand ready to work with the Government to create a better future for all.  

To do this, the new Government must ensure we have the housing we need; create a well-resourced and efficient planning system; implement a National Retrofit Strategy; and embed a clear and effective building safety regime.   

We will be engaging with the Prime Minister and his Government immediately.”     

UKGBC director of communications, policy & places Simon McWhirter:

This is a chance for a fresh start at the top of government and to put in place the strategic long-range policies that can turn around the UK’s fortunes on energy security and cost of living; address the threats to climate and nature head-on, and turbocharge our economic recovery. In his last campaign to become PM, Rishi Sunak rightly promised to lead a national effort to cut energy waste and insulate millions of homes. That would help tick every box. Our industry is ready to support him to deliver on it.

The new PM also has an opportunity to ditch controversial and unwise policies such as the recently mooted Investment Zones, where planning and environmental protections were set to be torn up. This was a recipe for more conflict and delay over new home and building developments. Businesses don’t want a race to the bottom. Instead, they need certainty and ambition to deliver much-needed green growth and investment. That’s why our planning system needs to be overhauled to bring it into line with the UK’s legally-binding climate and nature commitments.

Greening homes, offices, public buildings and infrastructure is a massive growth opportunity for UK PLC and one the new Prime Minister can’t afford to miss as he seeks to steady the ship of government and charts a fresh course.

British Property chief executive Melanie Leech:

“The last few months have damaged the UK’s international reputation and economic standing, the country urgently needs strong and competent leadership to rebuild confidence. The new Prime Minister needs to confirm their leadership team as soon as possible and provide clarity on their strategy for stabilising the economy and their policy priorities.  The property industry stands ready to work with Rishi Sunak in creating a thriving economy and addressing regional inequalities through the delivery of new homes, work and leisure spaces that are essential to revitalising our towns and high streets.”

Local Government Association chairman James Jamieson:

“On behalf of councils across England and Wales, I would like to congratulate Rishi Sunak on becoming our new Prime Minister.  As a former Local Government Minister and Chancellor, the PM already understands the mounting pressures that the sector face and the funding that councils desperately need to ensure they can keep vital services running for the many people who rely on them.

“Across the country, councils are working hard to support residents with the cost of living; looking after our most vulnerable children and adults; building desperately needed homes; supporting children with SEND and providing accommodation to those fleeing Ukraine and Afghanistan.

“However, without certainty of adequate funding - and given the funding gaps they are seeing - councils will have no choice but to implement significant reductions to services including to those for the most vulnerable in our societies. In these difficult times, we all need to come together and work in the best interests of our residents. The Government needs to ensure councils have the funding to meet ongoing pressures and protect the services that will be vital to achieve its ambitions for growth and to produce a more balanced economy, level up communities and help residents through this cost-of-living crisis.”

Timber Development UK chief exectuive David Hopkins:

“Like many other parts of the construction industry, timber businesses are crying out for some political stability right now. We hope the appointment of Rishi Sunak as PM will provide this and continue to calm down the markets too. Of course, he has some urgent economic issues to prioritise. But for TDUK members, whether he’s a good PM or not will also be judged by his actions on Net Zero.

“Liz Truss commissioned a review of Net Zero policies to ensure they are pro-growth and pro-business, following increasing scepticism amongst conservative MPs. We firmly believe that a Net Zero strategy with effective and targeted regulation is a driver of economic growth and can be part of the solution to this country’s difficulties. We look forward to productive conversations with Mr Sunak’s ministers on this and other issues in the coming months.”