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Scottish Executive's design plans are 'platitudes' - Murphy

Last Friday's launch of the Scottish Executive 'Designing Places' document, its first policy statement on the country's architectural aspirations, failed to ignite the imagination of one of its key architects.

The document was introduced by Lewis MacDonald, Deputy Transport and Planning Minister, at the 'Homes for the Future' development in Glasgow, and set out the Executive's aims for improving urban and rural design quality in Scotland.

But Richard Murphy of Richard Murphy Architects dismissed the document as 'typical government platitudes'.

The document examines the qualities of good design but its main aim is to raise design standards by offering a framework for all involved in the design process. The document will provide the basis for a series of technical Planning Advice Notes. It will also be used as a consideration in planning applications and appeals. It includes recommendations on sustainability, planning, public consultation and training, and recommends that 'architects, planners, landscape architects, engineers and surveyors should be encouraged to study urban design at postgraduate level'.

The policy document stresses the need for design education and training for local authority planners and calls for the appointment of a design champion by any public body that commissions a building.

But Murphy responded: 'The issue is not about good design, it's about good designers. I've seen too many guidelines issued. What needs to be done is to get a proper procurement policy sorted out so that only good buildings get built.'

Murphy went on to say that the best way of ensuring a good design was to run a competition for every project. He also suggested that any positive aspect to the document would be too little, too late. 'This is shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, ' he said. 'There are already so many mediocre buildings designed by mediocre architects.'

The document will sit alongside the Scottish Executive's policy on architecture, launched in October. Copies of the document are available online at www. scotland. gov. uk

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