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Hodder urges Tories to devolve power to local councils

RIBA president Stephen Hodder has urged the new Conservative government to devolve more powers to local authorities

The head of the institute was responding to the news that the party had won a slender majority in the general election.

Hodder, whose practice is based in Manchester, urged the Conservative leader David Cameron ‘to devolve greater powers and resources to local authorities to enable them to more effectively build strong, sustainable communities’.

He also hoped the recent decision to move the architecture portfolio into the Department for Communities and Local Government (see AJ 19.03.15) would create an opportunity to put ‘design at the heart of many of the key issues we face: tackling the housing crisis, improving the planning system and more effectively dealing with the effects of climate change.’

‘Focusing on architecture and the built environment, we can help to resolve these pressing issues and improve the places we live, work and play in the long term’, Hodder said.

He added: ‘Increased commitment to high quality design and longer-term strategic policy making, including a holistic architecture policy, are vital elements we would want to see the new Government deliver on.’

Hodder’s response to the Conservative manifesto

Housing: ‘It is vital that the pressure to tackle the housing crisis doesn’t lead to sub-standard homes. The RIBA supports the principle of more low cost homes on brownfield sites but high quality design and infrastructure are essential if these homes are to meet the needs of communities now and in the future.’

Planning: ‘The next government should review the National Planning Policy Framework to ensure that it balances both economic sustainability and social and environmental factors. We remain deeply concerned by the loss of expertise from local authority planning teams and its impact on the quality of new developments.’ 

Schools: ‘We hope that the Conservatives’ commitment to school funding will enable improvements to the quality of the UK’s school buildings. We face a growing shortage of school places, and 80% of our school buildings are in poor condition, failing the students and teachers trying to learn and teach in them. Well-designed buildings improve well-being and cut maintenance costs – vital to the long-term future of the UK’s education system.’

Flood defences: ‘We welcome the party’s announcement that they will build 1,400 new flood defences. However, we need to go further. The next government should provide real security for communities in areas affected by flooding by introducing legislation committing successive UK governments to build flooding resilience as a strategic priority for the long-term. There should also be a guarantee that new homes won’t be built on flood plains.

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