Conservative Party leader David Cameron has made a personal pledge that he will not ditch key RIBA-backed recommendations set out in the Tories’ Quality of Life policy document.
The news is a coup for RIBA president Sunand Prasad, who cornered the would-be prime minister at the Tories’ conference in Blackpool on Monday (1 October). Rumours had been circulating that the document, which will go on to form the basis of the Conservative manifesto for the next election, had been heavily cut to pander to Tory hardliners.
Despite revealing that two of the document’s key proposals – to freeze airport expansion and to charge for supermarket parking – had been dumped, Cameron told Prasad that all the other RIBA-backed recommendations will ‘make it into the manifesto’.
‘Cameron dropped into our “Ask an Architect” stall in Blackpool,’ said Prasad, ‘and I asked him outright which bits of the Quality of Life document would make the manifesto.’
Prasad said he was particularly concerned about two recommendations: a call for an 80 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, 20 per cent more than the Labour Party’s target; and a pledge to greatly improve the integration between planning and building.
The 550-page report – one of six policy studies ordered by Cameron – includes a commitment that a Tory government would ‘seek a much greater involvement of the [architecture] profession in decisions about the built environment’.
Also embedded in the hefty tome is a proposal to scrap the ‘unnecessary and empire-building’ ARB – a clause that Prasad claimed was added at the insistence of the report’s author, former environment secretary John Gummer.
‘While we contributed to the document, we had no say with the ARB wording. John Gummer has always been clear on where he stands with ARB,’ said Prasad.
Cameron’s appearance at the RIBA stall, and his assurance that the RIBA’s main concerns have been spared the axe, are a boost for Prasad, who admitted to the AJ that ‘in the last 15 years the RIBA was not as effective as it should have been in steering policy.
‘If the Conservatives adopt these plans I think a corner has been turned,’ he added.