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Tories receive cool welcome from RIBA

The RIBA has issued a guarded welcome to the Conservative Party's election manifesto, published yesterday.

The institute has highlighted five key points from the document that will be of interest to the architectural community:

an extra £15 billion a year for schools by 2009-10 and the creation of disciplined environments where children can learn;

the abolition of regional assemblies and return of regional planning functions to local authorities;

giving local communities a greater say over planning decisions and greater powers to help local councils deal with breaches of planning law;

halting Labour's plans to 'concrete over our green fields', promoting brownfield development and establishing more Green Belts with tighter development rules;

greater incentives to make homes more energy efficient.

RIBA president George Ferguson, a one-time active Liberal, said there were positives to be taken from the document, but insisted the party should have gone further.

'I welcome the Conservative Party's recognition that incentives should be in place to encourage householders to do their bit to reduce the country's carbon emissions,' he said.

'The Conservatives are right to prioritise brownfield development, but I'm disappointed that they have not heeded the call by the RIBA and others to equalise VAT on all forms of construction to encourage regeneration, discourage unnecessary sprawl and protect the historic environment.

'We also want the next government to lead by example using publicly owned land to pioneer environmentally responsible design and construction techniques, together with mixed tenure to meet people's different needs,' he continued.

'I welcome the commitment for greater investment in schools. Pupil behaviour is linked to good school design - whether it's creating better learning environments or getting rid of areas where bullying can occur.

'I hope that the Conservatives would agree with the RIBA when we say that government funding should therefore be conditional upon good design quality,' Ferguson added.

by Ed Dorrell

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