The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) today announced its success in persuading the Government to amend the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 to include a duty on local authorities to achieve good design alongside sustainability. The RIBA's campaign to improve design quality has been supported by the Town and Country Planning Association and the Landscape Institute.
The RIBA has long argued that good design facilitates the delivery of attractive, functional and sustainable homes, schools and workplaces which enables local communities to prosper. Well-designed buildings attract people, investment and activity to places and bring social, environmental and health benefits.
Today's success means the Government has been convinced to take design in the built environment seriously and design will now be fully entrenched in to the heart of the planning process and will significantly improve the quality of the built environment by filtering out the banal and the mediocre. The Government has tasked the new Homes and Communities Agency with responsibility for design quality along with the Infrastructure Planning Commission, through its national policy statements. It also means local authorities will have more power to reject schemes on design grounds.
A number of measures already exist which will enable local authorities to discharge a statutory, yet objective, duty to consider design quality:
Local Design Review Panels: standing panels of impartial, multidisciplinary design experts providing objective advice on the design elements of planning proposals
Design Champions: experienced experts able to counsel on the importance of good design
CABE's Building for Life standard offering 20 questions by which the design merits of housing schemes can be assessed
Design Quality Indicators: developed by the Construction Industry Council, CABE and the OGC, they are successfully being used in parts of the public sector.
RIBA President, Sunand Prasad said of today's announcement:
"Good design should be integral to the process of planning. With the Government now explicitly adding it to legislation, local authorities now have the mandate to dismiss projects on design grounds. Today's ground-breaking announcement will have a substantial impact on the quality of the built environment and I am looking forward to a future where poorly designed schools and houses are no longer tolerated."
The RIBA's campaign was strongly supported in the House of Lords by former architecture Minister the Rt Hon Lord Howarth of Newport, along with Lord Rogers of Riverside, Baroness Whitaker, Lord Tyler and Lord Best. The issue of design has triumphed over party politics and received the support of front bench teams across the House.
Lord Rogers said:
"This is wonderful news. I have lobbied on the importance of placing design at the heart of the planning system since the introduction of the Bill in 2004. Without ensuring design quality, there can be no urban renaissance."