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DCMS should be stripped of design role, says RIBA

RIBA has slammed the government’s inconsistent policies, short-term thinking and the role of DCMS in a response to Terry Farrell’s architecture review

Following the review’s launch in June, RIBA president Angela Brady criticised the government for ‘empty rhetoric’ on improving architecture, and said ministers need to come up with ‘an ambitious and forward looking vision’ for design led by a Cabinet Office minister.

‘Most importantly government needs to intervene,’ Brady added. ‘Where the market fails to provide choice, innovation or basic levels of quality, the government should take steps to help the industry overcome the barriers to design quality and where necessary, regulate to insist upon it.’

In consultation with its members, RIBA recommends four ‘vital actions’ to improve British design:

  • Remove architecture policy from DCMS and devise a Built Environment Policy - ‘A stronger, more coordinated approach needs to be embedded at the heart of Government which drives decision-making in favour of better design outcomes.’
  • Better long-term leadership by government - ‘The current market conditions do not favour quality in the built environment. Whilst some private developers have the forethought to invest in good design, this is not common place.’
  • Conduct a Design Quality Audit to resolve market failure - ‘Where the market fails to provide choice, innovation or basic levels of quality, the government should take steps to help the industry overcome the barriers to design quality and where necessary, regulate to insist upon it.’
  • Establish a Design Quality Task Force to protect long-term aims - ‘In pursuing its growth agenda, the Government risks putting long-term social benefit second to immediate cost cutting.’

An online questionnaire was launched in June to feed into Farrell’s independent review which is backed by DCMS.

Key areas chosen for discussion include the government’s role in promoting design quality, whether the UK needs an architecture policy, architecture as an export industry and access to the profession.

Reponses could help DCMS reshape policy towards quality design across government.

In June, the Landscape Institute criticised the review for being ‘backward-looking and too inwardly focused’.

Landscape Institute president Sue Illman said: ‘It is disappointing to learn that the first such review since 2000 asks no questions about the role of government in creating sustainable environments or of transport, infrastructure, SMART cities, green infrastructure, water-sensitive design, place-making or many other established features of progressive urban design.’

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