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Industry chiefs call for fresh approach to urban planning

Bartlett professor Peter Hall last week demanded a radical overhaul of current planning policy on housing and called for planners to 'shed their massive accumulated inferiority complexes, and get stuck enthusiastically into planning again'.

Speaking at the 'Architects in Housing' conference at Interbuild, Hall told an audience of architects, house-builders and component manufacturers that the proliferation of suburbs designed in isolation from public transport networks was largely to blame for today's car-dependent culture.

He called for local authorities to play a more prescriptive role in producing masterplans which encourage the use of transport and demanded closer working relations between the RIBA and the RTPI.

Hall also argued that the current generation of architects and planners needed to relearn the art of three-dimensional urban design.

Meanwhile, Tony Carey, managing director of St George, complained that developers were 'treated like pariahs' even when they adhered to the principles of reduced parking and mixed use to produce 'text-book' schemes. The combined effects of slow planning permission, punitive planning gain conditions, stamp duties and convoluted consultation processes were discouraging development even in the current buoyant market, he said.

Carey issued a warning that, unless attitudes change, 'a downturn in the market may well stop urban regeneration dead in its tracks'. But John Hobson, head of the construction directorate at the Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions said: 'You get the bureaucracy you deserve, ' and pleaded for the industry 'not to wait for a white paper to give you all the answers'.

Speaking on the subject of prefabrication, Simon Allford of Allford Hall Monaghan Morris stressed that changes in the construction process should not be seen simply as a way of building more cheaply or quickly, but as a means of building better spaces. He also called for a change in working relationships between designers and fabricators, citing the example of the Peabody Trust Raines Dairy housing project in London where AHMM and Yorkon worked closely together to deliver the project (pictured above). This, he argued, produced better results than if the practice designed a scheme and asked Yorkon to produce it, or taken a standard Yorkon product and imposed it on the site.

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