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What the Queen's Speech means for architects

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The AJ’s guide to the key points for architects in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech setting out the government’s agenda for the coming session

PLANNING • TRANSPORT • PRISON REFORM • EDUCATION • HOUSING

Planning

Announcement
To support the economic recovery, and to create jobs and more apprenticeships, legislation will be introduced to ensure Britain has the infrastructure that businesses need to grow.’

The legislation
Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill

What it includes

  • Measures to reform and speed up the planning process by minimising delays caused by pre-commencement planning conditions;
  • A new statutory basis for the independent National Infrastructure Commission;
  • Further strengthening neighbourhood planning to give more power to local people;
  • Establishing a new statutory framework for agreeing compensation under compulsory purchase orders;
  • Enabling the privatisation of the Land Registry.

Reaction
Mark Sitch, senior partner at Barton Willmore, said: ‘Given the importance of infrastructure to the success of new developments, we are glad to see that the Bill proposes to write the National Infrastructure Commission – announced by the Chancellor last year – into law. We hope that this body, which will be mandated to report to Parliament regularly, will help to drive the long-term investment in infrastructure needed to support development and help Britain catch up with its European counterparts.

‘However on planning issues, the government has not provided a great deal of detail in the Queen’s Speech, beyond another reference to trying to speed up housing delivery through its Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill. While streamlining measures could be positive, we would question whether yet more tinkering with the planning system will help or hinder – perhaps we need to focus on letting previous reforms settle.

‘This is particularly the case in the current climate, as uncertainty over the Housing and Planning Act and the upcoming EU referendum reduces levels of confidence in the market.’

Transport

Announcement
‘My ministers will ensure the United Kingdom is at the forefront of technology for new forms of transport, including autonomous and electric vehicles.’

A driverless pod vehicle to be trialled in Milton Keynes

A driverless pod vehicle to be trialled in Milton Keynes

A driverless pod vehicle to be trialled in Milton Keynes

The legislation
Modern Transport Bill

What it includes

  • New laws to make the UK ready to pioneer driverless cars;
  • Legislation to enable the future development of the UK’s first commercial spaceports;
  • Ensuring appropriate insurance is available to support the use of autonomous and driverless vehicles.

Reaction
Rachel Skinner, development director at Parsons Brinckerhoff, said: ‘Autonomous and driverless vehicles will be transformational, particularly in freeing up land now used for parking spaces that will not be needed in future.

‘Our research shows each hectare of additional developable land is worth millions. Freeing up this land will create more viable developments that will increase housing and boost UK plc.

‘Shared autonomous vehicles will require storage hubs, but not parking spaces. This means we can redesign our town squares, reclaim our driveways and build more densely in cities.’

Prison reform

Announcement
‘Old and inefficient prisons will be closed and new institutions built where prisoners can be put more effectively to work.’

The legislation
Prison and Courts Reform Bill

What it includes

  • New powers for prison governors;
  • An overhaul of education, health and training to reduce re-offending;
  • New performance measures to assess prisons’ current performance, long-term direction and progress.

This legislation sits alongside £1.3billion of investment announced in the Spending Review, including the building of nine new prisons.

Reaction

Greenock jail designed by HLM

Greenock jail designed by HLM

Greenock jail designed by HLM

Chris Liddle, chairman and head of prison and rehabilitation design at HLM Architects, said: ‘Many of our prisons are overcrowded, barren blocks of concrete that still resemble the Victorian era, unfit for purpose and at odds to the way we live in the 21st century, impacting and influencing the behaviour and well-being of those who reside and work there and on all activities that take place inside.

‘We create sound learning environments for education outside, but refuse to offer the same environment for penal education and training allowing many offenders to live, and try to develop, in conditions that are sub-standard.

‘If the government is to truly succeed in its aim to rehabilitate offenders, its prison governors must take an holistic approach to our penal system, seize the initiative and create environments that don’t eat away at well-being but create a positive setting by providing facilities that foster personal improvement, self-esteem and preparation for release from day one.’

Education

Announcement
‘A Bill will be brought forward to lay foundations for educational excellence in all schools, giving every child the best start in life.’

The legislation
Education for All Bill

What it includes

  • New laws to expand the academies programme in the poorest performing local authority areas;
  • A new funding formula to deliver fair funding for every school and pupil in the country.

Reaction
RIBA chief executive Alan Vallance said: ‘The government’s new proposals to encourage excellence in schools are to be encouraged, but the important role of well-designed school buildings should not be overlooked. As our recent Better Spaces for Learning research report shows, current funding and procurement structures are inefficient and wasteful and far too many pupils and teachers are struggling to learn and teach in school buildings that are damaging to their health and attainment.

‘We urge the Government to review the Education Funding Agency’s current school building programme to make sure it delivers consistently good results and better value for the taxpayer.’

Housing

Announcement
‘My government will support aspiration and promote home ownership through its commitment to build a million new homes.’

Reaction

Assael's Pontoon Dock PRS entrance detail

Assael’s Pontoon Dock PRS entrance detail

Assael’s Pontoon Dock PRS entrance detail

John Hicks, director and head of government & public, AECOM, said: ‘Addressing the UK’s escalating housing crisis is key to maintaining the UK’s competitiveness, so we welcome the government’s commitment to building one million new homes. Focus must, however, extend beyond home ownership and the volume of units so that homes are built as part of sustainable communities including transport, supporting social infrastructure and the key to permanent employment: business and industry.’

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