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Anger over ditched standards

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Architects have hit out at the government’s ‘regressive’ decision to ditch national standards for UK publicly-funded housing

Housing minister Grant Shapps last Thursday announced he was abandoning the Homes and Communities Agency’s core housing standards and a ‘cocktail of local building standards’, claiming the move would ‘reduce the unnecessary cost and hassle’ associated with house building.

The RIBA launched a stinging attack after the announcement and president Ruth Reed branded the decision ‘deeply troubling’. She warned that ditching the standards would have ‘profound implications for communities across the country’.

Alex Ely, of Mæ Architects (pictured, Mæ’s Hammond Court housing scheme), described Shapps’ decision as a ‘regressive step [which] undermines years of work trying to raise the quality of housing.’

Ely said the standards should have been extended, rather than ditched, and rolled out to cover all new private housing. The decision amounted to ‘affordable housing being dumbed down to the regulatory minimum’, he said.

Anthea Jackson, of Cheltenham Architects’ Studio, asked: ‘Why advocate building slums? We should aspire to the best [standards] not the lowest.’

Ben Derbyshire, managing director of HTA, suggested the end of core standards could save the government £8,000 per affordable residence built.

He said: ‘Some of us have been arguing for simplification in the standards and regulation and for measures to improve the operation of the housing market. It remains to be seen whether the proposals the Coalition has in mind will genuinely achieve this.’

Andy von Bradsky, chairman of PRP Architects, also welcomed the attempt to make compliance simpler but said: ‘[There] is much to be done to agree the detail.’ Amanda Taylor

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