One year since the general election – what is the RIBA doing to represent you?
On 8 June 2017 millions of us were heading to the polls, marking the end of a short and occasionally surreal general election campaign. The result – a minority Conservative Government, supported by the Democratic Unionist Party – was not one that many (not least the pollsters) expected. In the 365 days since, we’ve seen both a high level of continuity in political priorities post-election, with events causing significant shifts in others. Post-election, the RIBA has continued to work to ensure that the voice of architects is heard by Government and Parliament, and here you can read an overview of just some of the key events which have shaped the last year.
Grenfell Tower and fire safety
Less than a week later than the election, a fire broke out at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington. One of the results of this tragedy was the establishment of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, chaired by Dame Judith Hackitt. Bans on the use of the flammable cladding systems, and of the use of desktop studies to certify fire regulatory compliance were among the substantial recommendations made by the RIBA’s fire safety advisory group to the review, with the aim of ensuring higher levels of public safety. The UK Government has now committed to consulting on both, with a ban on the use of flammable cladding widely expected to be announced soon. The RIBA’s Fire Safety conference, which will feature keynote speeches from Dame Judith Hackitt and Chair of the Housing Select Committee Clive Betts MP is taking place on 12 June 2018.
Although the events at Grenfell Tower have rightly dominated the agenda on housing and planning, the result of the 2017 election encouraged more substantive changes as the Ministry in charge of fixing the housing crisis. DCLG was rebranded the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government this year – putting housing firmly at the top table of UK Government, and we’ve seen two new housing Ministers, and a new Secretary of State across the year.
The housing crisis
The long-awaited draft revised National Planning Policy Framework consultation was published, and RIBA President Ben Derbyshire attended a roundtable meeting with the Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond and Housing Minister Dominic Raab to give the architects view on how to solve the housing crisis. Acknowledgement of the role of design quality is increasing at the Ministry, with the RIBA both hosting a design quality symposium at 66 Portland Place and supporting a Government design quality conference this year.
You can’t talk about the year in politics without mentioning the big ‘B’. The RIBA undertook its second survey of members on Brexit, and published the results earlier in the year. We found that many architects – especially those who are originally from the EU – are still trying to deal with the high level of uncertainty caused by the result of the EU referendum, and want to see action from UK Government on areas including mutual recognition of professional qualification agreements, the status of EU nationals, and on international standards. The RIBA also published new research on the international value of UK architecture, and new recommendations on trade support, and the post-Brexit immigration system.
We’ve met with Ministers and civil servants from across UK Government, and hosted roundtables connecting architects with decision-makers, to make clear that the needs of UK architects must be met during Brexit negotiations. The RIBA was delighted that the Architects Council of Europe backed our motion for a continued MRPQ agreement with the EU post-Brexit. This position was reflected in the Prime Minister Theresa May’s Mansion House speech earlier this year, which underlined that continued MRPQ agreements with the EU is a priority for UK Government.
Creative Industries Sector Deal
The RIBA has also been participating in work aimed at supporting growth in architecture through the Creative Industries Sector Deal. The deal introduces measures such as the establishment of the Creative Industries Trade and Investment Board, which seeks to reduce the barriers faced by the many architects who told us they want better export support from UK Government. In the lead-up to the launch we welcomed the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to 66 Portland Place and RIBA Chief Executive Alan Vallance attended meetings and events as part of his work on the Creative Industries Council throughout the year.