‘Building Better Places’ report welcomed

Civic Voice - talking civic senseA House of Lords Committeee have released a report titled Building Better Places

Civic Voice have welcomed the report in a press release, emphasising the recommendations for maintaining and improving local control and community engagement in the planning process, and preservation of the historic environment:

The House of Lords Committeee on National Policy for the Built Environment have released a Report of Session 2015-16 titled Building Better Places last week. The report (which is available here) covered areas such as the recent trends in the built environment, creating better places through design, quality and standards, building for the long-term, delivering more housing and local leadership, delivery and skills. Members of the committee included Baroness Andrews, who works with Civic Voice to raise our issues in the House of Lords.

Baroness O’Cathain, chairman of the Committee on National Policy for the Built Environment, said: “If we build houses in the wrong place, to a poor standard, without the consent of local communities we are only storing up future misery for the people in those houses and others nearby. That is why we are recommending local authorities are once again empowered both to build new homes of their own, and to ensure all developments are of a suitably high quality.”

From the 66 conclusions and recommendations, some that may interest civic societies include:

  • We recommend that there should be stronger policy support for early community engagement in both local plan making and planning decision-making. The Government, and local authorities, should give
    consideration to making good community engagement a material consideration in major planning decisions (included in Civic Voice manifesto).
  • Recommend that local authorities should give one Cabinet Member (or senior officer) responsibility for coordinating services which impact upon street quality and the public realm (included in Civic Voice manifesto)
  • That when changing permitted development rights, the Government must also make it easier for local authorities to respond to local circumstances. The committee recommend that the Government should review and remove some of the restrictions that currently prevent more widespread use of Article 4 directions by local authorities
  • The Government should make design review mandatory for all major planning applications; major applications have major impacts on the communities in which they take place (included in Civic Voice manifesto)
  • The committee state that England lacks a proactive, long-term national strategy for managing our historic environment. We believe that such a strategy, which would recognise the full value of our built heritage as a unique national and local asset, central to place-making, should be articulated for the future (included in Civic Voice manifesto)
  • Revise the National Planning Policy Framework to reduce the unreasonable use of viability assessments by developers to avoid funding affordable housing and infrastructure.
  • Appointment of a Chief Built Environment Advisor to champion higher standards in built environment across Government departments.
  • The protections afforded to the Green Belt are important; current NPPF policy on the Green Belt should remain. We recommend, however, that the Government should publish clearer guidance on the definition of the “exceptional circumstances” in which Green Belt boundaries may be revised.
  • We recommend that the Government should review the rates of VAT charged on repairs to listed buildings, and examine the economic rationale for reducing the rate (included in Civic Voice manifesto)
  • The Government should also consider strengthening the priority given to brownfield development, including considering the reintroduction of a “brownfield first” policy at national level. (included in Civic Voice manifesto)
  • We recommend that the Government should give stronger weight to emerging neighbourhood plans in planning policy, to enable rejection of speculative development which might conflict with the neighbourhood plan (included in Civic Voice manifesto)
  • We believe that the Government should consider the introduction of a community right of appeal in certain specified circumstances, such as when a planning decision conflicts with an emerging neighbourhood plan or deals with a site unallocated by the local plan (included in Civic Voice manifesto)
  • Make design review mandatory for all major planning applications, in order to offset the long-term burdens and costs of poor quality design.(included in Civic Voice manifesto)

Ian Harvey, Executive Director for Civic Voice said “We welcome this report which shines another light on the importance of the built and historic environment.  We are pleased that the committee have picked up several of the Civic Voice calls from our manifesto from 2015 including; introducing a community right of appeal; implementation of “place strategies” and making design review mandatory.

Ian added “The quality of our cities, towns and villages is vital to the achievement of so many objectives which are shared across the political spectrum: economic growth and prosperity, social cohesion, public health, safety and crime reduction. Most people want to have a say, and many want to play an active part, in making sure that the design of their city, town or village is as good as it can be. Quality of place is not just determined by the planning system. That is why we also need integrated Place Improvement Strategies which complement the local plan but also include a strategy for heritage management and improving the public realm (such as streets, squares and parks). Like local plans, Place Improvement Strategies should be produced through an inclusive and participative process. A named senior officer and a senior politician should be answerable for producing this strategy and making sure it is implemented. We look forward to debating these issues with the sector and will be ensuring civic societies across the country continue to campaign for “Real Localism”.

Civic Voice February 2016

Civic Voice is the national charity for the civic movement in England. They make places more attractive, enjoyable and distinctive. They promote civic pride.

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