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We must work to universalise best practice. Design champions should be appointed in all relevant bodies. In January 2007, only 65 per cent of local authorities had a design champion. Many said that they did not know how to use their design champion to best effect. Design champions need to have the standing, the time and the skills to be effective. Design review services should also be available everywhere. Legislation should empower the Secretary of State to make provision for design review panels and for their findings to carry weight at appeal. The new legislation should indeed lay a duty on planning authorities to promote high-quality design. Post-occupation analysis examination of how developments have actually workedshould become normal practice, enabling us to learn quickly from experience.
Planners and developers need to take to heart paragraph 43 of PPS 1, and ensure that there is genuine involvement of the community in the development of plans and designs. I visited Barcelona with my noble friend Lord Rogers and Sir Stuart Lipton, chair of CABE, to study how the authorities there had made such a success of new development. What was impressed on us was that Mayor Maragall not only had a passion for architecture and for his city, but had spent endless amounts of time meeting citizens in their own neighbourhoods, explaining, listening and responding. He also had power in Barcelona to raise money and take decisions effectively untrammelled by Madrid.
If people want traditional architectureand very many dothey should be allowed to have it, albeit constructed to sustainable standards. The debate about style should be won honestly. There should be no more hubristic imposition of the innovative.
We need to think about how to structure rewards and penalties to encourage good design and construction. Long-term costs and benefits for society often are not aligned with costs and benefits for developers. Richard Simmons has noted that accounting and valuation methods often give low weighting to design quality. In the public sector, capital and revenue costs are usually allocated to different budget-holders. Often in the private sector, it will be someone other than the developer who gains from added value arising as the benefits of good
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We should set space standards that are more, not less generous. It will not do to create 3 million hutches. We must also ensure that enough time is availableyou do not get good design in a rush. Encouragement of pre-application discussion will help. In the hurry to get schools and houses builtand I understand the reasons for pressing forwardthere is a risk that insufficiently considered and poor-quality design will be churned out.
We need to complete the culture change that has begun. Our civic leaders in the 21st century, like their predecessors in the 19th, must aspire to the best for the people whom they serve. Indeed, they must insist on the best. Leadership at every level and a willingness to learn will be the keys to promoting good architecture and urban design. Nothing will be better for national morale. I beg to move for Papers.
Lord Patten: My Lords, I do not seek to damage in any way the noble Lord, Lord Howarth of Newport, but I did agree with every word that he said. We are in different political parties, but in the same pro-design party. In his splendid, broad-brush introduction, he set the scene for this debate.
I will address my remarks entirely to that part of the noble Lords Motion that raises the importance of design quality being taken into account by local authorities, with which I agree wholeheartedly, and then only in relation to one particular issue, that of good housing design in brownfield and greenfield edge-of-town housing schemes. These may seem a bit prosaic and humdrum compared to shards of glass and signature architects vaunting ambitions, skyline-changing statements and so on. However, in the mass, the three million houses that the Government predict will come off the production line will have much larger impacts on the landscapeirreversible impacts on the landscape, changing it for ever. They will also affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. I hasten to add that I have no commercial interests to declare and am also out of sight and sound of any proposed developments affecting our homes in Westminster and the West Country.
At the moment, as the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, said, new house building is slowing. However, when home construction speeds up again, as it will, the demands of even the most conservative predict-and-provide projections will mean an awful lot of new homes. The Government must realise that, in an age
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It cannot be easyI do not have these skills, I am an amateurto produce a master plan to build a scheme of 250, 500 or 1,000 homes on the edge of a town, embracing perhaps both brownfield and greenfield sites. The problem is that even if an attractive master plan is produced, it does not ensure necessarily that detailed good design will follow. That is the next frontier. This demands great skills by building companies, but they need to be guided with a firm hand by local authorities design departments and planners. Having spoken to and corresponded with designers and planners over the years, I do not think that either group has all the skills. Behind them very often are councillors with the very difficult job of implementing schemes that have been urged on them by central governmentbuild more houses in your region to meet the numbers thought to be neededoften in the face of considerable controversy and concern by local residents.
What happens next is a bit sad and sometimes evenI choose my word carefullypathetic. In local newspapers up and down the land, you see that councillors about to press the planning button are advised by officers to get that planning gain from developersas though the planning gain of a new zebra crossing, community centre or school, wrested from a house builder or developer, is in the end what local councils are really all aboutand, once that planning gain has come, that is it, their job has been done. While planning gains are significant in themselves, they sink into insignificance compared with how councillors should oversee the way in which schemes are planned and built. The biggest planning gain that any council anywhere in the land can achieve is always found in good and sustainable design, sympathetic to setting and heritage, giving the backdrop for the new community that is going to live in that area. Councillors need to wake up to the fact that this is their main responsibility. Some do, but not all. For such new developments will irreversibly alter the landscape, for better or worse.
Too often, house builders still work from a pattern-book approachone design fits all. Affordable, two-bed, three-bed and then, right at the top end, a few four-bed and five-bed McMansions added on to give a touch of glamour on the margins. This must be why the chief executive of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, writing in his foreword to its housing audit in 2007a document referred to by the noble Lord in his excellent speechwrote that,
The chief executive of CABE was absolutely right in what he wrote. The approach that leads to this dire situation is one that I recall with amusement tinged with horror. A few years ago I was talking to the CEO of a major house building company at a private, informal gathering. I pressed him a bit about design. He turned to me and said, Design, John? Come on. At this point he lapsed into Anglo Saxon vernacular not so shocking that I cannot risk it in your Lordships House. We basically have the same patterns everywhere in the country and then we use a few gob-ons on the buildings. It took me a second or so to understand what these gob-ons were. I then realised that he was referring to the fact that in chalk country a flint porch is added, while in the Midlands they gob-on a little brick façade with a bit of what is probably plastic barge boarding. That sort of thing has done the UK house building industry no end of harm. Builders deserve the opportunity to build if the Government want them to, but they must do so in a way that is acceptable and gives customers what they want. We cannot have any more identikit design with a bit of locally derived façade stuck on the front.
In conclusion, there is a huge opportunity for planning authorities, encouraged by the Government, to do what are often marginal things such as checking the designs for estates with huge trees planned for the edges. Those trees are planted as slips and take 20 to 30 years to reach maturity, so that is the ultimate deceit. It is in paying attention to little things such as minimising abrupt and harsh lighting on town edges that pollutes the night sky that in the end will help to deliver the Governments housing objectives. I look forward very much to hearing what the Minister has to say in response.
Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, it is rare to have a debate in the House primarily about architecture, although we have had occasional debates on design. So I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Howarth of Newport, has sought this opportunity and spoken in the way that he did. My own preference today is to look at a larger canvas because there is every reason to celebrate the profession and current British architecture, although I am anxious about some developments.
For six years I was the director-general of the RIBA and I now enjoy a modest pension. When I arrived at the RIBA in 1987, as a layman in these matters, I called on Richard Rogers to discover my
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It is now a quarter of a century since Foster, Rogers and Stirling broke through to the wider public with a new generation of remarkable architects in the influential Royal Academy exhibition. James Stirling died much too soon, but his name is carried in an international architecture prize, the Stirling Prize. As for Foster and Rogers, they have gone from strength to strength, and their world reputation stands exceedingly high. But there are many other outstanding British architects working at home and abroad, including our own Michael Hopkinsif I may call him that, given Portcullis House. Outside the world celebrities, we have practices such as Edward Cullinan ArchitectsEdward Cullinan was awarded the 2008 RIBA gold medaland MacCormac Jamieson Prichard, which has designed many fine buildings in our universities.
It may seem invidious to name names, but architectural practices are usually marked by high quality individuals, dedicated and sometimes idiosyncratic. That is unlike some other professions which often appear to be anonymous. I can think of no structural engineer by name, although the profession plays a crucial role in major architectural projects. However, if the top 10 per cent of the architectural profession is outstanding, some should probably not be practising at all, and even very good architects can make mistakes. But despite architecture being a relatively poorly paid profession, many talented young men and women are seeking places to study architecture in our universities and colleges.
I hope that the profession has overcome the brutal, damaging and unfair speeches made by the Prince of Wales in 1984, when he referred to the monstrous carbuncle, and in 1987 when he made comparisons with the London Blitz, along with remarks about the British Library and other buildings he did not like. They were quite inappropriate given his status and disproportionate influence. Those were rather depressing years, including the acceptance of the public finance initiative that diminished the importance of design and put the contractor ahead of the architect in creating major public buildings.
I have to say that the arrival of new Labour in 1997 greatly raised the morale of the profession and, more important, pointed towards even better architecture. In particular, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, already mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, and which is now a statutory body, has been a very good thing in advising contractors, architects, planners and clients. That is important, for without a good client, even a good architect cannot create a good building.
One great loss in the 1980s and 1990s was the role of the county architect. Despite some building disasters, the LCC in particular, and then the GLC, had many good architects. The model of an outstanding architect
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As for my concerns, some arise from success and, hitherto, a confident economy. As the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, pointed out, there are massive building developments in east London arising from the forthcoming Olympic Games, but there is inescapable pressure both on timeit is sooner than we thinkand the budget. It must be tempting to cut corners in design and the quality of the architecture, but it would be unforgivable. Again, and in due course, I should be grateful if the Minister could explain the procedures and bodies responsible for establishing the permanent buildings and spaces which should last for many years.
Recently I visited Liverpool, where I was born and brought up and which is the European Capital of Culture 2008. I rejoiced in the many exciting changes, but I am reserved about the building site now called Liverpool One because of its bulk. As for the huge conference centre, the Arena, it seems to overshadow the strong and historic Albert Dock area and draws nothing from the river. In turn, in Salford, BBC Manchester has a great opportunity for utilising first-class architecture in the major new developments and to redeem some awful buildings in Wood Lane and White City. I should like to know what is happening and to be reassured on the financing, given that Gordon Brown and the Treasury have cut the BBCs licence fee income to the bone.
As for housing, there are far too many blocks of flats in the private sector that do not appear to have used an architect at all. I hope that everything will be done to ensure that higher standards in social housing are achieved in the bold programme that Ministers envisage. But there is a degree of scepticismwhat an expert recently called an impossible aspirationabout new homes becoming zero carbon emitting by 2016 and all new buildings three years later.
Lord Sawyer: My Lords, I add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Howarth of Newport, on initiating this debate, and on giving such an interesting and knowledgeable overview of a subject on which we can all make our shorter and possibly more targeted contributions. I enter the debate to encourage the Government to extend the opportunities that outstanding
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Lay person though I am, I believe that this is a golden age for design, for architects and for architecture. I see before me designers and architects at the peak of their professional potential, and I have observed their work in many locations. They are undoubtedly helping to create some of the most beautiful, sustainable and human-friendly buildings and spaces ever known. We should harness their knowledge, experience and skills at every opportunity. There is absolutely no excuse for some of the dismal failures of the past, as the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, outlined, or some of the mediocrity referred to both in this debate and in the CABE report. The professions skills, abilities and initiative make such failures inexcusable.
In the university town of Middlesbroughparticularly at the University of Teesside, of which I have the honour of being chancellorwe have transformed our town by creating outstanding public buildings and open spaces and using outstanding architecture. The university itself is a tribute to modern architecture. From humble beginnings as a small Gothic college, it is now a beautiful campus in the town centre, with 10 buildings constructed in the past 10 years. Some are iconic, including an institute for digital innovation and a centre for creative technology. We have a new student union building and a new performing arts centre. We have enjoyed 12 major refurbishments over the same period.
Alongside the university, bang in the middle of the town centre and costing £14 million, we have the beautifully designed Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, designed by the leading Dutch architect Erick van Egeraat. The building has won several awards and is absolutely central to our towns drive for regeneration and renewal. It has opened the town hall area to give light, space and a completely new perspective on the centre of town. It has brought to life, in a way which was never possible before, the original, beautiful Victorian town hall building.
Complementary to the creation of that public space is the Middlehaven project, a riverside development which is bringing the vision of the Tees Valley into being. It is growing where the town was originally founded, on riverside land that was dominated in the previous century and first part of this century by the steel, iron and heavy engineering works of the last Industrial Revolution. It is a place where people will live, learn and work in a new industrial revolution, with apartment blocks, houses, offices, hotels and leisure and entertainment facilities built to the highest sustainable and environmental standards and for people to enjoy.
I cannot begin to tell your Lordships how important this is to a town that was blighted and damaged in the 1970s and 1980s by factory closures and economic decline. Initiatives such as those in Middlesbrough and similar ones in Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds and other northern towns and cities are rebuilding our regional economies and the lives of the people in the region.
This is a short speech that applauds the Government for helping to regenerate our university, our town and our region. There is, however, still a north-south divide which was referred to extensively in the earlier debate on equality in your Lordships House. Economic and personal problems in the regions still need to be addressed and I do not want to minimise that. Too often, from a regional point of view, the debate on design and architecture is also London-centric. I ask the Government to keep up the important investment in the north. We have to battle every year for our share of investment against a range of other priorities, and we understand that. But my noble friends on the Front Bench should make no mistake: the regeneration of our northern city and region which I have outlined today is making an important difference to peoples lives.
I would also like the Government to value the contribution that architects can make to regeneration. My experience in this is very limited, but it seems to me that the profession has much more to offer than its usual contributions on design and build. It should be involved in regeneration and development work beyond the usual confines and expectations.
To the architects I say: well donebut we want more involvement. Exactly 100 years ago this year, Philip Webb had just retired but Norman Shaw was still working, as was WR Lethaby. CF Voysey and CR Ashbee were at the height of their powers, and Barry Unwin and Raymond Parker were building the garden cities. All of them, as noble Lords will acknowledge, were undoubtedly under the influence of their forebears John Ruskin and William Morris. They laid down the standards of architecture for the people, not just in Britain but in Europe and around the world. Some of them were great influences on giants such as Frank Lloyd Wright. They are the foundations on which todays best architecture is built. However, they were more than architects, they were also social reformers. That is the bit that we need more of today. Architects are important agents for social reform and they should promote it. They should extend that part of their contribution. It would benefit us all.
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