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Election 2019: Labour mulls appointment of architecture tsar

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The Labour Party could appoint an architectural tsar if it wins the general election this week, according to the shadow housing secretary

Speaking to the AJ, John Healey dismissed the existing Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission as ‘a bit of window dressing for a Conservative government that’s not tackling the fundamentals’.

But he added: ‘Labour have talked about setting an architectural tsar in place to help guide decisions.’

The current beauty commission was set up to ‘promote better design and style of homes’ and has input from ‘specialist advisers’ including ex-RIBA president Sunand Prasad and AHMM co-founder Paul Monaghan.

The commission, which is headed up by Create Streets founder Nicholas Boys Smith and conservative philosopher Roger Scruton, is due to hand its final report over to the housing secretary later this month.

Healey said the Labour Party would tell the beauty commission to ‘go and do something else’ if the party is elected.

‘You don’t need [a commission] at arm’s length, where you give jobs and roles for your mates,’ Healey said.

He said suggested Labour would put more emphasis on design, as it has ‘a vision of housing as better designed, [with] better standards’.

In its manifesto, Labour pledged to deliver 100,000 local authority-backed homes a year by 2024, introduce a £1 billion ‘Fire Safety Fund’ to retrofit sprinklers and scrap permitted development rights for the conversion of office blocks into homes.

Healey was talking after the Housing Hustings, a debate held by the RIBA, the RICS and other built environment organisations on Wednesday (4 December). He was head-to-head with Sian Berry, co-leader of the Green Party, Tom Brake, Lib Dem spokesperson for the Duchy of Lancaster, and Luke Hall, a Conservative and junior minister at the housing department.

The Conservative Party has not responded to a request for comment. 


Readers' comments (2)

  • I propose the award-winning Ben Adams for the post - it would be safe in the hands of an architect, and Ben Adams is a true 'man of the people'.

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  • Chris Roche

    I am hopeful Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party will be elected with a working majority and the country begin's a social housing revolution. This will present the RIBA with a dilemma. As an elected RIBA Council member within Jeremy Corbyn's constituency, I was paired with Jeremy as his RIBA architectural advisor. As a local community and labour party activist I was well known to Jeremy and with Jeremy's support successfully campaigned to prevent the demolition of Archway's landmark towers. We both attended each and every RIBA reception at the House of Commons, but shockingly we were both "blacklisted" from attending events by a former RIBA chief executive who did not share our political views. Jeremy Corbyn was also critical of the RIBA during the RIBA London episode, when the elected Chair was deselected on grounds of race and gender. No doubt RIBA will want to re-write history.

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