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Minister lays out larger role for architects in new planning system

Words:
Christopher Pincher

MHCLG’s Christopher Pincher calls on architects to engage with planning as part of government’s strategy to build homes with ‘beauty, quality and environment’ at their core

Can we plan better? City structure around Oosterpark in Amsterdam
Can we plan better? City structure around Oosterpark in Amsterdam Credit: istock shuoshu

Since the start of the pandemic, our homes have been our shelter from the storm.

For some people, their well-designed and comfortable homes have been a blessing. For others, poor housing has been a curse.

We owe it to them, and the generations to come, to do better. This is not simply about building more homes, although that remains an absolute priority. It is about building more beautiful and sustainable homes and neighbourhoods that once again speak to our sense of identity, drawing on our architectural heritage.

I know that few people care more deeply about these issues than you: our world-class architects.

We want to see architects playing a bigger, more influential role in a reformed planning system, with beauty, quality and the environment at its core.

Our reforms—set out in Planning for the Future—propose a number of ways to achieve this.

First, we propose a new ‘fast-track for beauty’, to tilt the system decisively towards well-designed places, projecting the inspired voices of architects over the humdrum drone of the generic designs of some major housebuilders.

But as our Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission reminded us earlier this year, beauty is not simply about how our places look.

That is why our reforms will ensure our next generation of homes are also well-connected, with access to the amenities and green spaces that can transform a place from a development into a community.

Second, as we move from a more globalised style of architecture to a localised one, we have a chance to be truly innovative.

There will be countless opportunities to become pioneers of local industry, blending traditional materials and techniques with the latest technology and environmental standards.

Third, the new system will allow for more powerful and profound partnerships with the ultimate client: the people who will make these buildings their homes.

Last month, we appointed Nicholas Boys Smith to lead work establishing a new design body which will explore how we can achieve this.

But I am clear about what we need to see: architects, urban designers and landscape architects at the heart of the process, working in collaboration with communities. They can be the interpreters of their hopes and dreams.

Working with communities as they develop their own local design codes and pattern books has the potential for some richly rewarding experiences: not least, the chance to shape thoughtful and beautiful places that will be loved by generations to come.

Finally, architects will be on the cutting edge of our national mission to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Our Future Homes Standard will be a driver of this low carbon future: homes with 75% lower carbon emissions, and crucially, ‘zero carbon ready’ homes that will not require retrofitting to make them fit for the future.

Building greener represents an opportunity to fully – and some might say, finally – embrace the innovation and potential of modern methods of construction.

Taken together with our measures to promote tree-lined streets and ensure a net gain for biodiversity, our new communities will have the resilience to overcome whatever the future may bring.

These are significant changes and we recognise the importance of getting them right, so I am looking forward to hearing the views of architects.

It is a community that I know shares the government’s desire to build homes and build them well, and one I am convinced will rise to the challenge.


Christopher Pincher is minister of state at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

Over the past few months the RIBA has been engaging with its membership and expert advisory groups to shape its official response to the government consultation. You can take a read here. Read RIBA Journal’s summary of the planning consultation here

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