A speedier planning system that increases the quantity of homes will not reduce the quality of homes, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has stated, in light of a new House of Lords Committee report on the built environment.
The report expresses concern that by allowing housebuilders to progress through the planning process faster, and therefore build houses quicker, the government will also be allowing a reduction in quality and potentially repeating mistakes of the past. It stated worries that the overall emphasis on speed, and quantity of housing supply appears to threaten sustainable planning for the long-term and the delivery of high quality and design standards.
Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “The committee is right to focus on the quality of housing – any dropping of standards in order to boost completions will serve to store up problems for the future. However, to suggest that achieving numbers might come at the cost of quality is creating a false dichotomy.
“In particular, the committee has misunderstood the impetus behind calls for planning reform. Small housebuilders have been pressing for a speedier planning system, not because it will allow them to build to a lower spec, but because the current system is ill-suited for building high quality homes on the required scale to address the housing shortage.”
Mr Berry suggested that what housebuilders need is a planning system that is far quicker and easier to navigate and is an enabler of housing delivery, not a drag on it.
As a counter to what the report described as a ‘cumulative effect of progressively diluting the capacity of local authorities to scrutinise new developments, to safeguard quality and sustainability and to ensure that proposals contribute to an overall and beneficial sense of place’, the committee recommended the appointment of a chief built environment adviser, to act as a champion for higher standards and to promote good practice.
Mr Berry said: “We back their call for the introduction of a chief built environment advisor. The role of chief construction adviser existed until the end of last year but was scrapped by the government as part of its efficiency savings. As construction, housing and infrastructure cut across so many different government departments, it’s useful to have a dynamic individual in place who can ensure there is greater co-ordination in Whitehall and who can act as a genuine champion for creating a quality built environment.
“The government needs to work with the Lords and with industry to develop these recommendations in a way that allows us to tackle one of the greatest political challenges of our time.”