On Friday, the House of Lords Select Committee on National Policy for the Built Environment released its report ‘Building Better Places’. CIfA welcomes the report, which sets out a comprehensive response to recent trends and current opportunities and challenges within the built environment. The report is released amid a period of intense activity affecting built environment policy, as the government pursues changes to housing and planning policy and legislation. However the report also reflects on policy trends and initiatives observed over the past several years and the overall principles of sustainable development, well-being, and place-making.
The report draws on evidence submitted by a large number of bodies, including CIfA, whose evidence is referenced in the report. In the current context of planning deregulation CIfA particularly applauds the Committee for sounding a note of caution on current proposals for changes to the planning system. The report notes that;
‘[The Committee] are anxious to ensure that moves towards a permission in principle do not undermine the capacity of local authorities to develop, design and integrate key sites in a way that ensures that they function effectively and respond to local needs and aspirations. The relationship between principle and detail is important in the planning system. We recommend that the Government should carefully consider the impact its reforms could have upon this relationship. As a minimum, it is important that the process of granting permission in principle and Technical Details Consent should give due regard to design quality, sustainability, archaeology, heritage and all the other key components of place-making that would normally be required for the granting of planning permission.’ (Paragraph 148)
The report also discusses the benefits of ‘investing in heritage’ and describes the contribution that the historic environment makes to sense of place, pride, and well-being, as well as its economic benefits. However it is noted that the ‘full potential of the historic environment to contribute to place-making and regeneration has not been realised’ (Paragraph 178). Among recommendations concerning the historic environment are;
• A call for a proactive, long-term, national strategy for managing the historic environment as part of planning for the future of the built environment
• A call for better joint-leadership from DCMS and DCLG on the historic environment, with more pro-active joint working on relevant cross-cutting policy areas
• A strong support for the principle of balanced protections to the historic environment in the NPPF, where such protections are not seen as an obstacle to development
• A call for Government to review the rate of VAT for repairs to listed buildings, which is currently set at rate of 20% compared to 0% on new build.
Overall the report represents a positive vision for the cross-cutting place agenda and issues a strong support for the principles of balance in planning and place-making, as well as for sustainable development which protects both social and environment as well as economic benefits.
The full report can be read here.