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New housing and planning minster told: 'focus on policies not politics'

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Brandon Lewis and his new ministerial colleagues should concentrate on supporting the design and construction sector rather than seek political points during the coalition government’s remaining months in office, the industry has warned

Reacting to Lewis’ promotion to housing and planning minister in prime minister David Cameron’s reshuffle, the RIBA, the Home Builders Federation (HBF), and the Design Council all cautioned that the coalition’s work was far from complete - despite the countdown to next May’s general election.

RIBA called on Lewis and his fellow ministers to implement the recommendations from the Housing Standards Review – urging him to push through minimum space standards for new build homes; to start making decisions on the future of the Architects Registration Board; and to continue helping the UK construction industry deliver growth.

‘There is plenty for this government to get on with now their reshuffle is complete,’ a RIBA spokesman said.

‘We hope our new ministers will take their new portfolios seriously and refrain from the temptation and party political pressure to get into serious campaign mode.’

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman at HBF, said Lewis had previously shown a ‘keen interest’ in developing new ideas to support growth and urged the minister to continue working with the sector to identify new opportunities.

‘With politicians of all parties united in the belief that the only way to solve the country’s housing crisis is to build more homes, and voters increasingly highlighting housing as a key electoral issue, we need to build on the successes of policies such as the Help to Buy equity-loan scheme and work together to increase housing supply,’ he said.

Design Council policy officer Kate Jones called on Lewis to focus on ‘proactive planning’ to deliver good-quality developments in the right places, and in a timely fashion.

Jones added that other reshuffle moves beyond the Department for Communities and Local Government also had implications for architecture and design, particularly with the appointment of Greg Clark as minister for universities and science at the Department for Innovation and Skills (BIS), which is a sponsor of the Design Council.

‘Greg Clark will also retain his cities brief with the Cabinet Office providing crucial continuity to deliver the government’s ambitions for local growth,’ she said.

‘Strengthened ties to BIS are welcome, and our Cabe team will continue to work with the minister and his team to make sure cities have access to the support they may need to ensure necessary housing and infrastructure is in place sooner to provide our towns and cities with the right conditions to compete on the world stage.’

Mark Robinson, group chief executive of local-authority-owned construction-procurement specialist Scape said it was ‘imperative’ that the government’s new lineup of ministers took a ‘solution-driven’ approach to their roles. 

‘The sheer number of changes could leave us rudderless’

‘Re-arranging the deck chairs can bring new ideas and creativity, but my concern is that the sheer number of changes across construction, education, housing, energy and planning, will leave us rudderless and drifting until the next election, as the incoming ministers try to grasp the complex challenges our industry is facing,’ he said.

‘The UK economy might be on the mend but figures show that the construction industry has not yet fully recovered from the recession.’


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