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London Plan: Mayor stands ground over architect retention clauses

Sadiq khan at estate
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London mayor Sadiq Khan has kept architect retention clauses in the capital’s planning blueprint – the latest revision of which is scheduled to be published in March – despite warnings the measures were onerous

Using architect retention clauses is one way of ensuring design quality by making sure the same architects are used from start to finish of a scheme, the London Plan argues.

The government’s planning inspectors’ official response had called for the paragraph on retention clauses to be deleted because it is ’overly onerous’ for developers.

However, the mayor has ignored the advice, and in the final ‘Intend to Publish’ version of the plan has retained the key paragraph.

Finn Williams of Public Practice, an initiative to build public sector planning capacity, said recent high-profile cases such as the segregation of playgrounds at the Baylis Old School housing scheme in Lambeth (pictured) had highlighted the risks of not maintaining the original design intent from consent right through to completion (see Conran + Partners criticises ‘poor playground’ segregation at its housing scheme).

’They also show the limits of architects’ power to deliver real quality if they’re cut out of the process,’ he added.

Williams also said the back-and-forth over the architect retention clauses in the plan reflects ’wider confusion’ across the industry about whether they stand up to legal scrutiny.

’It’s true that it is not possible for local authorities to insist that developers retain the original architect until completion under UK law. But it’s a myth that they can’t include a clause that incentivises retention, or allows for the continued involvement of the original architects in a monitoring role.’

Williams said the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) emphasises the importance of retaining original design teams in its Design Quality Policy, and routinely uses a strong set of Design Monitoring clauses in S106 agreements.

Baylis old school dinah bornat

Baylis old school dinah bornat

Public Practice has recently published research on the measures used to lock in design quality across 11 London boroughs. 

The study, conducted by associate Lucia Cerrada Morato, found that only 20 per cent used architect retention clauses and that the tool was sometimes perceived as difficult to implement and enforce.

Morato’s study found that another option is to use a section 106 agreement to retain the architect as a ‘design champion’ for the council.

Another more flexible approach for developers is for councils to use a framework of architects that applicants can choose from in the delivery phase. 

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: ’The Mayor is clear that developments across London must be of the highest-quality design. The policy does not compel the use of architect retention clauses –  it’s one of a range of options boroughs may consider to reduce the likelihood of poor design changes subsequent to permission being granted.’

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Readers' comments (3)

  • John Kellett

    “Another more flexible approach for developers is for councils to use a framework of architects that applicants can choose from in the delivery phase.” It would make more sense for that framework to Include ALL architects within any council’s jurisdiction.

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  • Sadiq Kant put a sentence together let alone understand design...

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  • Finns statement ‘incentivisation’ to retain the architect is inflammatory and anti collaboration – it suggest that the wider team have less value and that a client/developer needs to be guided on something they have probably done a number of times successfully. The imposition of a restrictive obligation of this nature is not incentivisation its instruction, penalty and clear planning overreach.

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