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Design rules, OK

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The importance of Planning Policy Statement 1: 'Delivering Sustainable Development' (PPS1) cannot be overstated

PPS1 is the overarching planning guidance that replaces PPG1, published eight years ago, as well as Circular 5/94, 'Planning Out Crime'.

As the introduction says: 'The policies set out in this PPS will need to be taken into account by regional planning bodies in the preparation of regional spatial strategies, by the Mayor of London in relation to the spatial development strategy in London and by local planning authorities in the preparation of local development documents. They may also be material to decisions on individual planning applications.' Bear this last point in mind when considering some of the key points in the opening section: 'The government's objectives for the planning system.' It is in this context - which is intended to dictate everything from the content of policies to the consideration of applications and enforcement - that architects' interest in the relevance of design should be placed.

The original PPG1 mentioned design only in an appendix, though famously it suggested that the involvement of an architect was a material consideration - a policy that got lost in the 1997 version where it merely required that planners refuse bad design. PPS1 promotes design to a section of its own and the word 'design' is mentioned 25 times. Presumably this implies that there will be a much more conducive environment for architects to produce and deliver good architecture - or will there? (See box. ) Actually, the role of the architect in preparing applications has not been put forward in this new document.

Had it talked about it, the somewhat undefined meaning of 'good design' might not remain such a subjective issue (ask the average planning committee member what it means to him or her! ).

To require that applications, involving a significant building proposal, should be prepared by an architect may seem to be asking too much, but it would ensure an appropriate level of skill in the preparation of such applications. It would also go some way towards eliminating the need for protection of title. (If this seems far-fetched, it is by default the common position in Europe, and in France in particular, it is a statutory requirement).

Brian Waters is principal of the Boisot Waters Cohen Partnership. Visit www.bwcp. co. uk

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