Amanda Baillieu — editor in chief
Reforms will do little to tackle the developers who profit from low levels of production
For the last decade or more, the argument about quality has largely been about cities. Here, the planning system seemed to be in thrall to organisations like Cabe which promoted schemes on the grounds they had been designed by a “world-class architect” regardless of whether they followed the rules.
It’s also argued that planning has become became too complicated and full of jargon. The only people who could make any headway were community groups led by people with time on their hands. These groups derailed large applications. One nearly brought the entire King’s Cross development to a halt, while recently local campaigners have successfully seen off Stuart Lipton’s plan to commercialise Camden Lock in north London.
These same people will no doubt be running the local design review panels that were announced today, so in one sense nothing has changed. And neither has the issue about quality because, despite today’s soothing words, the government has come no closer to taming the housebuilder who deliberately takes advantage of low levels of production to sell anything.
In fact the shortage of new housing has made housebuilders very rich and will continue to do so. It is already being helped by £570 million of public money from the Get Britain Building fund, and there are 300,000 units currently on hold according to the latest statistics — which simply helps to push up prices.
Today the planning minister Greg Clarke said he regretted the lack of quality. Addressing MPs he said: “What a disastrous state of affairs in a country which is home to some of the most talented designers, and the best architects and craftsmen in the world, and which has over the years constructed villages and cities and buildings — like the one we meet in — that people cross the world to see.”
The question is will today’s planning reforms make any difference? Will the talented designers the minister was referring to get to build the next generation of housing the country needs?
For all the soothing noises, the answer is that today’s changes may have tackled the planning system but they haven’t touched the developers. Until they do, quality may be on the agenda but housebuilders are off the hook.
3 September 2012 | Updated: 3 September 2012 10:58 am
28 March 2012
27 March 2012