The Conservative Party is neglecting design in its drive to build thousands of new homes, RIBA president Stephen Hodder has claimed
Speaking from the Tory conference in Birmingham this week, Hodder, who had also attended the Labour Party event, said: ‘Discussions around housing at the Labour Party conference focused a lot more on the importance of design. But here, at the Conservative Party conference, the focus is on numbers.
‘The RIBA is here to keep banging the drum about design and make sure the politicians know how important it is in housing.’
His comments came after David Cameron unveiled plans to build 100,000 new ‘regulation-lite’ homes for first-time buyers – a move which has provoked the anger of environmental groups. Under the fast-track proposals, developers building houses for purchasers under 40 years of age would be able to side-step key regulations, including the long-awaited zero carbon standards, due to be introduced in 2016.
Paul King, chief executive of UK-GBC, said: ‘This is incredibly short-term and counter-productive thinking. A new zero carbon home is likely to save householders over £1,000 year-on-year on their energy bills compared with a Victorian equivalent, and yet costs builders as little as £3,000 extra to build.
‘Historically there is absolutely no correlation between the standard of building regulations and volume of housing. The issue has been availability of mortgage financing and, in some cases, planning. Relaxing regulations will only advantage cowboy builders who want to turn a quick profit and leave a generation with a legacy of poorer homes and unnecessarily high energy bills.’
Meanwhile, recently elected RIBA councillor Ben Derbyshire said the conference season had so far produced a ‘disappointing crop of unfocused housing policies’ which are ‘singularly unfit for the purpose of reversing the housing problem’.
Derbyshire, who chairs the Housing Forum, added: ‘It all boils down to the pressing requirement for more land to be made available for housing; for the incentives to improve the environmental efficiency of the existing stock to be raised to a level which will motivate investment; and for a convincing programme of skill development and job creation to fill the vacuum that has emerged in the supply chain.’
Terry Farrell, Farrells
‘What both parties are saying about housing is clear – there is a housing shortage and a serious need for more homes. How each side would go about delivering the new homes Britain needs differs, of course, but both government and opposition are agreed on this overriding objective. What they also agree on - which is extremely encouraging for built environment professionals - is that quality must not be sacrificed for quantity. Design quality is key – and how we achieve that, whilst still building the homes we need, is now central to the debate more than ever before.’