RIBA responds to government’s productivity plan

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has on the 10th July 2015 responded to the Government’s Productivity Plan, ‘Fixing the Foundations: Creating a More Prosperous Nation’.

RIBA President Stephen Hodder said:

“If fully implemented, these reforms represent a significant step forward in tackling the economic damage to the UK’s competitiveness created by the housing crisis.

“The Government must use this opportunity to deliver on their commitment and set out aspirational and rigorous standards for all new housing developments. National space standards and a broad mix of housing types and tenures are vital components of the standards needed to deliver high-quality, sustainable homes and strong communities.”

RIBA comments on specific measures within the Productivity Plan:

On the introduction of a ‘zonal system’:

“Initiatives that help speed up the development of brownfield sites are welcome. However, we need to make sure that this move doesn’t have a negative impact on design and build quality. The Government should look at how design codes have helped drive high standards under lighter-touch regulatory systems and make sure that robust safeguards are in place to ensure that new developments are accompanied by the right economic and social infrastructure.”

On powers to allow Government to intervene and draft local plans:

“It is right that the Government pushes for faster adoption of local plans which promote sustainable development. We hope that this has an impact on current negotiations on local plans.

“Too many of the current local plans being proposed are failing to identify enough land for new housing. This is placing an unnecessary block on economic growth.”

On penalties for local authorities:

“Procedural delays in local authority planning departments, particularly the validation of planning applications, are holding up schemes across England and are a growing source of frustration for many architects and their clients. Actions that address these blocks would be very welcome.

“However, with planning appeals already taking up to 18 months to reach a resolution, the Government needs to ensure that this doesn’t lead to delays elsewhere in the planning system.”

On support package for SME house builders:

“The decline of SME house builders has played a key part in driving the housing crisis in rural communities.

“If these measures are successful, we hope that they will promote an increase in the number of small in-fill schemes in our towns and villages. These schemes can add housing capacity, without fundamentally altering the nature of rural communities.

“Small-scale developments can be integrated into existing communities more easily and place less strain on infrastructure. We know from experience that they can also lead to excellent design quality as developers recognise the benefits this delivers in securing support from existing residents.”

On the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Regime (NSIP):

“The RIBA is very pleased that the Government has recognised that housing is a key infrastructure issue.

“We hope that the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) will use its new role, as the department for architecture, to promote good design in the housing schemes bought forward under these proposals.”

On stronger compulsory purchase powers to bring forward more brownfield land, and devolution of planning powers to the Mayors of London and Manchester:

“Devolving planning powers to local authorities offers the opportunity to tailor developments and standards to local needs. We hope that other areas of the UK will be able to benefit in future.”

On reducing net regulation on house builders:

“The RIBA is hugely disappointed by the Government’s decision to scrap both the Allowable Solutions carbon offsetting scheme and the proposed 2016 increase in on-site energy efficiency standards. This announcement, which was buried in an otherwise commendable Productivity Plan, is a significant backwards step and will challenge the UK’s ability to deliver cost-effective, energy efficient homes.”

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