The House of Lords Select Committee on National Policy for the Built Environment has asserted the importance of delivering a better built environment and criticised the current Government’s emphasis on speed and quantity of housing supply saying that it is threatening sustainable planning for the long-term, quality and design standards.
The Committee was told that around 240,000 new houses are needed each year to meet existing demand; they conclude that it is not possible to meet this target through reliance on private sector developers alone and that local authorities and housing associations must be allowed to play a bigger role in building.
A range of steps to improve building quality have been recommended, including reintroducing the Zero Carbon Homes policy; the promotion of green infrastructure through planning, and a review of the borrowing restrictions on local authorities as well as its own decision to reduce social rents.
Jeremy Blackburn, head of policy for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), commented: “Put simply, more needs to be done to tackle the housing crisis. We have worked alongside Baroness O’Cathain on the Select Committee’s review and wholeheartedly agree that the private sector alone cannot solve the problem.
“Affordable housing needs to be foremost in our thinking, and this is why RICS is calling for local authorities to donate land for community groups looking to deliver self-build projects. In other European countries, 50% of new homes are self-build, and this could offer yet another means to get Britain building, and see more people housed.”
Industry bodies have applauded the House of Lords Select Committee report stating that Government’s policy is short-sighted, expressing their concerns over the quality of new developments, and the risk of housing delivery being prioritised at the expense of other elements of the built environment.
John Alker, campaign & policy director of the UK Green Building Council, said: “The Government’s U-turn on the zero carbon standards for new homes threw away a decade of planning and investment by progressive developers, designers and manufacturers and made our carbon targets even harder to hit.”
The Committee states that ‘speed must need not come at the expense of quality, and a short-sighted approach runs the risk of repeating the mistakes of the past’, and as Mr Alker continued: “The houses we build today need to stand the test of time, and it is perfectly reasonable to expect quality as well as quantity.”
Other recommendations in the report included a more proactive Government support for retrofit of existing building and Government doing more to protect and promote Green Infrastructure in national policy and guidance.
The full House of Lords Select Committee report on National Policy for the Built Environment: Building Better Places can be viewed here.