Dear Secretary of State,
Following my Review of Housebuilding Delivery for your predecessor Ruth Kelly, I have been following the progress of the Housing and Regeneration Bill. In particular the amendments on design quality proposed by Lord Howarth.
My review placed great emphasis on the need to create market-driven solutions to such challenges as volume and quality. At a time when trading conditions are difficult, the pressures on the housebuilding sector to cut corners and make economies on design and quality have never been greater. We are, I believe, at a tipping point and need to move decisively to offer housing deliverers a commercially realistic way of delivering quality, cost effectively.
In many locations, particularly those in urgent need of regeneration, quality is simply not cost effective. Purchasers cannot afford to pay a premium for quality and too little weight is given to high-quality applications in the determination of planning applications.
The imposition of an obligation on the part of the Homes and Communities Agency to improve design quality, coupled with the creation of design review panels, would create a commercial incentive for developers to make the changes to their business processes that are needed to bring about a positive step change in design.
In particular the establishment of design panels, whose conclusions were a material consideration in the determination of planning, would tilt the commercial balance in favour of quality. The additional costs and overheads implicit in quality design would be more than offset by quicker consents and fewer appeals. The converse would also apply.
The proposed amendments by Lord Howarth would create clear commercial incentives for developers to deliver your policy objectives on quality.
I therefore urge you to support Lord Howarth’s proposed amendments.
John Callcutt CBE
Chair, Callcutt Review of Housebuilding Delivery