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Rogers and Goldschmied rip London planning apart

Lord Rogers and riba president Marco Goldschmied have launched a stinging attack on urban planning in London.

Speaking at the launch of a £100,000 riba campaign to lobby the capital's new mayor last week, the duo tore into planners and attitudes to urban design in the city.

'England is 20 years behind western Europe in urban regeneration. Housing densities are at 40 dwellings per hectare in London while the figure is 200 in Barcelona. We need a big change in approach,' Rogers said.

He attacked all sides of the planning process and warned of a serious skills deficit among all those involved in urban development. He claimed that planners and policy makers will not admit that inner-city poverty is linked to the poverty of the physical environment. He added that the private sector is too averse to risk and that planners lack environmental responsibility.

'The planning process is too slow, adversarial and fails to integrate with other public policy. Neither is it suited to large scale developments,' he said.

riba president Marco Goldschmied backed Rogers' view: 'The level of planning skills in the London Boroughs is just not good enough,' he said. He called for the use of models in planning applications to make proposals easier to understand for planning committees.

The architects were speaking at riba headquarters to a forum of around 50 top London architects. They were invited to map out a strategy to win part of the mayor's £3.3 billion annual budget for architecture. The riba's London division wants £2000 from each of London's 50 biggest practices to fund a policy on architecture for London which it will submit to the Mayor. It hopes to follow the model of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland whose policy on architecture was wholeheartedly endorsed by the Scottish Executive.

The riba also wants written contributions, marketing help, researchers and meeting rooms from architects to sustain the campaign to win the Mayor's ear. One third of the riba's 26,000 members work in London.

Rogers admitted that architects are poorly represented at a government level and he warned that the campaign will fail unless the benefit of good architecture is quantified. 'We need to prove our impact on crime, on health and economically. Until we can prove we are of real value, politicians won't stop in the street for us. We do lack confidence and knowledge at the moment,' he said.

Delegates voiced fears that a campaign by architects for better architecture is likely to appear self-serving. In response the campaign aims to recruit advocates from outside the profession.

The riba is to appoint a £30,000 a year head of government relations in an effort to win greater influence and preach its message at Westminster.

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