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Ministers urged to appoint built environment tsar

Palace of Westminster
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Peers have recommended that the government appoints a built environment advisor backing earlier calls by the RIBA

The select committee on national policy for the built environment has urged ministers to create a new post of chief built environment advisor to ’champion’ higher standards across government.

Other recommendations include: mandatory design reviews for all major planning applications and the reinstatement of the code for sustainable homes and requirement for zero carbon homes.

This advisor should be a senior official with a similar status to the government’s chief scientific adviser and would be supported by staff in a new but ’small, strategic unit’.

Such a unit would ’conduct, commission and disseminate research and guidance on architecture and design within the built environment,’ according to the committee’s report, Building Better Places.

’This new unit should be led by the chief built environment adviser, and should have access to expertise, research and insight from across and beyond government,’ the report adds.

The committee decided against proposing a chief architect as recommended by the Farrell Review, opting instead for the title suggested by the RIBA.

Max Farrell, a partner at Farrells who led the review, welcomed the recommendation for the chief built environment advisor.

’There is a big difference from the recommendations coming from the select committee,’ he adds.

’The government wasn’t obligated to make a formal response to our review and it didn’t. For the select committee report, it is obligated to make a formal response. The government can be held to account or challenged. It will become a bigger public issue.’

Ben Derbyshire, managing partner of HTA Design and chair of the Housing Forum, said it ’absolutely endorses the advice of the House of Lords Committee on National Policy for the Built Environment’.

’The RIBA has also joined with other professional institutes called for a senior civil servant to be appointed to oversee and report on quality in the built environment, calling for professional representation at Whitehall to help politicians understand how to obtain the best possible outcomes,’ he added.

’I would personally endorse the appointment of an architect in this role - as made plain in our ‘Architects Leading’ campaign in council.’

Further Comment

 RIBA president Jane Duncan said:

“I welcome this important report by the House of Lords. The RIBA will now get to work with our members and other professionals in the built environment to ensure these important policies are adopted by government.”

John Alker, Campaign & Policy Director of the UK Green Building Council

“The Government’s U-turn on the zero carbon standards for new homes threw away a decade of planning and investment by progressive developers, designers and manufacturers and made our carbon targets even harder to hit.

 “The houses we build today need to stand the test of time, and it is perfectly reasonable to expect quality as well as quantity.”

 Kate Henderson, chief executive of the TCPA said:

 “The Committee is right to focus on the quality of places that we create, rather than just housing numbers. I hope that the government heeds the advice from the House of Lords as it consults on further detail in the Housing and Planning Bill.

 “We agree with the committee that our homes and communities have the opportunity to enhance our quality of life, health and wellbeing. People don’t want to live in unsustainable shoe-box homes without access to decent local services and that is why the committee is right to call for a return to place-making standards such as Lifetime and zero carbon homes.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Boris Johnson would appear to have appointed himself the Built Environment Czar for London.

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