Ahead of this year’s party conferences, we have called for a new cross-government strategy and a commitment from all political parties to deliver and inspire public demand for high quality design in the built environment.

Through the experience of the Cabe team and in consultation with its network of Built Environment Experts, the Design Council has identified the following key recommendations to the Farrell Review of Architecture and the Built Environment to put to government:

1. A new cross-government strategy to deliver policy aspirations to achieve high quality results. 

There is not currently a long-term cohesive approach to delivering better quality places in the UK. A new strategy for architecture and the built environment is needed to deliver the government’s aspirations set out in policies such as the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) for high quality buildings, spaces and places for everyone. Led by the Prime Minister through Cabinet Office, the appointment of a cross-party committee to oversee the strategy will ensure a long-term commitment to achieving quality of place regardless of government changes to ensure that this country is a fairer, safer, healthier and more prosperous country for all.

2. Invest and strengthen mechanisms for delivery

Over the last fifteen years the Cabe team at the Design Council has developed and delivered proven mechanisms such as Design Review and enabling support to ensure high quality outcomes are achieved through the planning system. If used consistently these mechanisms have been proven to help deliver good design. It is therefore critical as part of any new government strategy that these mechanisms and urban design expertise are made accessible to all participants in planning to help ensure that quality is not compromised at any stage of the process.

3. Government demonstrating leadership as a client

The government through its public building programmes (including housing, infrastructure and schools) has power to demonstrate excellence whilst delivering value for money.

It could do so through:

  • A review of the public procurement process and the introduction of a new code of practice for design procurement for publicly funded projects to ensure the most fair and open process that appoints the best and most appropriate designers for the job.
  • Ensuring all publicly funded projects have access to design support and are referred to Design Review to demonstrate a clear commitment to design quality.
  • Compulsory long-term evaluation of public projects measuring the impact of better designed schemes.

4. Empowering local decision makers to identify and refuse bad design

Local government is critical in the delivery of great places and should also take responsibility for the delivery of the new strategy. A local councillor can influence the future of an area and has the opportunity to make it a great place to live and work. All councillors with responsibility for planning should therefore have mandatory training on urban design and the built environment to enable them to make informed decisions at committee.

We have worked with almost every council in the country, helping them to seize the creative and economic opportunities of a specific project or a long-term programme of work. Across all services, councils have told us they want three things: mentoring (professional support), inspiration and information (on-line resources with practical advice and digital platforms to stimulate debate).

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