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Duncan: 'Where's the focus on design in Osborne's housing drive?'

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RIBA president Jane Duncan has urged the chancellor to take ‘urgent action’ to ensure the 400,000 affordable homes he pledged by 2020 are not ‘rabbit hutch’ houses

Duncan raised fears about design quality following George Osborne’s announcement in the autumn statement earlier today (25 October) to pump an extra £2 billion a year into house-building.

The RIBA president also hit out at a further round of spending cuts proposed for planning departments, claiming local authority budgets had already ‘been slashed to unsustainable levels’ and that any new reductions would make it ‘increasingly hard [for planners] to adequately appraise the quality and impact of proposed development or to enable public participation in the design process.’

She went on to attack the current policies on energy and sustainability, stating it was ‘unclear how the government planned to meet its ambition to upgrade all low-income households by 2030’.

In full - response to autumn statement by RIBA president Jane Duncan

The chancellor’s focus on house-building is welcome. But urgent action is needed to ensure all homes are well designed, sustainable places people want to live, making ‘rabbit hutch’ houses a thing of the past. The announcements on new infrastructure and devolution must put quality design at their heart if we are to truly build a better Britain.

On housing:
We need well-designed homes in the right location, of the right quality and at prices people can afford to buy or rent. While [the institute] is pleased the government has made more money available to help increase the number of ‘affordable’ homes for first-time buyers, older people and those with disabilities, the quality of new homes cannot be allowed to slip off the agenda. The Housing and Planning Bill offers the perfect opportunity to ensure new houses are of excellent quality and will make homes for people now and long into the future.

On planning:
Local authority budgets have been slashed to unsustainable levels, and we are concerned about the impacts this will have on local communities. Budget cuts have already undermined the ability of planning departments’ to make strategic long-term judgements about the needs of the communities they serve. This latest round of cuts will make it increasingly hard to adequately appraise the quality and impact of proposed development or to enable public participation in the design process.

On the need for energy efficiency:
Urgent action is needed to resolve the current policy impasse on the future of energy efficiency in the UK. Without more money it is unclear how the government plans to meet its ambition to upgrade all low-income households by 2030. Ahead of the Paris talks, we need to see more leadership on climate issues from the government.

On school buildings:
The protection of the schools capital budget is welcome, but there is still an enormous challenge that needs to be met. With much of the school stock beyond its shelf life and a need to provide additional places to accommodate two imminent population peaks, it is vital the government works with the designers and builders of new schools to ensure that high quality and value for money are consistently delivered.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • There is also the absurdity of the application of VAT at the full 20% to upgrades and improvement of the housing stock, now including those listed, because of architectural merit, while new-build housing is exempt, providing a 20% incentive for site-clearance with all the social disruption and waste of embodied energy entailed.

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