BSRIA applauds the publication of the House of Lords ‘Building Better Places Report’ released on Friday – as part of the Select Committee on National Policy for the Built Environment – with particular reference to the recommendation of the government to focus on increasing and speeding up the supply of housing. The report acknowledges that this is a central part of the government’s policy agenda.
But speed and quantity of housing should not come at the expense of the delivery of high quality and design standards. A short-sighted approach runs the risk of repeating the mistakes of the past. Buildings should be built to last and to stand the test of time: the quality of housing should never be sacrificed.
Julia Evans, Chief Executive, BSRIA, said: “The report says that it does not believe the government can deliver the step-change required for housing supply without taking measures to allow local authorities and housing associations each to play their full part in delivering new homes. BSRIA has said that all the supply chain elements must align. It is encouraging that the report recommends a range of measures which are intended to create better places, promote design quality and enhance the resilience and sustainability of new developments.
It was good to see the report highlight that the loss of biodiversity and lack of access to green space can result in direct negative impacts on mental and physical health. Natural England has estimated that if each household in England was provided with equitable access to quality green space then savings of £2.1bh could be achieved every year in averted health costs. At present, the distribution of areas with high levels of social exclusion typically coincides with areas of sparse green space which is of limited quality.
All too often, the link between people and place is lost in decision-making concerning the built environment. Places fail to function effectively for the people who live in them and exert a long-term negative impact upon health and wellbeing. The holistic approach to housebuilding is a key policy plank for BSRIA.
The Lord’s report would like to see the planning profession regain the status and prestige it deserves. BSRIA wholeheartedly endorses this suggestion especially when we harbour concerns over how any building or construction is going to be built when there is a severe skills shortage in the industry? Upskilling is also a key issue, running alongside that of apprenticeships and the current uncertainly surrounding the apprenticeship levy. Will local authorities reinvest in this important discipline?”
Finally, the committee recommends the appointment of a Chief Built Environment Adviser, appointed to integrate policy across central government departments, to act as a champion for higher standards and to promote good practice. BSRIA supports this recommendation.
The Select Committee on National Policy for the Built Environment was appointed by the House of Lords on 11th June 2015 “to consider the development and implementation of national policy for the built environment”.
The committee received 187 submissions of written evidence and took oral evidence from 58 witnesses in 27 evidence sessions. It also carried out visits with local authority members, staff and university representatives.