A change for the better?

Friday 23 Mar 2012

Matthew Goodwill asks what the changes to UK planning laws will mean for architects

With all the recent upheaval and controversy regarding planning laws in the United Kingdom, a serious debate has spread over development vs. preservation. The proposal to drastically reform the planning laws results in the removal over 50 laws deemed obsolete and over 100 being changed to simplify and improve existing measures.

Many critics argue that the relaxation of these laws will only lead to the destruction of the British countryside as developers will be able to build on Greenfield sites with fewer measures to challenge them. Supporters of the move argue that expansion is necessary due to the rising population levels in our cities. The environmental groups have deep concerns that despite the government claiming that issues of sustainability will not be allowed to be dismissed, the new moves will allow for ‘unrestrained building in the countryside’.

But what does this mean for architects? Will the ability to bypass certain restricting planning laws lead to projects getting the go-ahead more easily allowing freer designs or will it allow developers to ruin the name of architecture with buildings in previously restricted places? The RIBA have so far have not released much regarding their views on the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and have stated in their recent press release on the 2012 Budget: “The RIBA will issue a full response to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) when it is published on the 27 March 2012.”

The RIBA have noted several areas of interest regarding the NPPF in this press release: “The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) will be published next Tuesday and will include ‘a powerful presumption’ in favour of sustainable development. The Government has committed to ensuring that there is support to help local authorities get plans up to date quickly.”

This issue of sustainable development has been the main issue of contention around the whole debate; many have asked where we draw a line with development if the laws in place to protect our countryside are weakened and others have expressed fears of it leading to uncontrolled development, something the government strongly claims is not the intention with the revisit of the planning laws.

The sustainable agendas set to be released in next week’s press release will undoubtedly spark more debate but the RIBA has expressed its desire to work with the government so that the key points of interest to them in the budget do not just benefit the developers. Next week will provide a clearer direction in where this debate will go when the official documentation is released and how RIBA respond to the changes.

Matthew Goodwill

Key Facts:

Urban design

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