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Welsh eclipse the RIBA to raise the quality of housing

The Royal Society of Architects in Wales has stolen a march on its English equivalent by making a report commissioned by former RIBA president David Rock the focal point of a new campaign to raise housing quality in the principality.

RSAW director Mary Wrenn told the AJ she has ordered enough copies of the report, Commissioning Quality, for all directors of development in the 32 or so Welsh housing associations as well as the leading Assembly members and civil servants. She plans to write personalised letters to them all along with the guides in a bid to get them to act on its findings. The report was commissioned by Rock as part of his president's initiative and it hammers home the message that architects and others involved in social housing need to learn to say no to unsatisfactory funding, procurement methods and quality (AJ 4.11.99).

Written by architect Wright & Wright, the document calls for proper resources. It says that social housing will only improve if all parties define their roles, and that both England and Wales could do well to learn from Scotland's example.

The Welsh initiative comes when the National Assembly is preparing to alter the strict 'pattern books' which govern the layouts of such housing, and Wrenn hopes they will help to break what Rock has called the 'cycle of blame', where architects blame the housing associations, associations blame the housing corporation, and the corporation says it is up to the associations.

However, Rock said the Welsh action on the document was in stark contrast to inertia from Portland Place. 'The RIBA is yet to move on it, ' he said. 'The RSAW's support and use of the booklets put the Institute to shame, ' he said.

Wrenn added: 'It's always difficult when RIBA works on a two-yearly presidential cycle and it's a shame that good work done in one era isn't quite as fashionable or the systems are not there to deliver.'

Another of Rock's reports, last August's Town Champions, has also borne fruit, with a meeting and seminar on the subject set to take place in Barnsley next month. It is thought Barnsley might have been chosen because it will ultimately act as a pilot scheme for the initiative.

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