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Planning expert slams new design law

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A leading planning expert claims the new Design and Access Statement law, which came into force last week (New design statement law comes into force), is part of a growing trend by local councils to dumb down design skills.

Brian Waters, joint publishing editor of Planning in London, told the AJ he believes the government should be careful that the skills needed to interpret planning designs are not being taken away from council staff.

Although he acknowledges that most architecture practices already produce design statements, he believes it is part of 'an ongoing trend of councils loading the burden of processing onto the applicants'.

He said: 'CABE has felt it necessary to publish a guide to teach people how to read these new statements. There could be concerns in the future over local authorities being able to interpret the applications being submitted.'

Local authorities, he says, are gradually being trained to interpret certain information, and, he fears, over the coming years council staff with fewer skills could be made to interpret designs.

'The Department for Communities and Local Government needs to be cautious,' Waters said. 'The fewer skills the workforce has, the more design will need to be codified, allowing councils to simply tick boxes on whether design passes requirements.'

However, chair of the RIBA planning group Peter Stewart believes Waters' fears are misplaced.

'I don't agree with that at all,' he said. 'I think it's important and necessary for architects to explain their designs rather than just submitting drawings. Although planners have the requisite skills to read the drawings, the general public may not, and they have a right to air their views on a planning application.'

by Richard Vaughan

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