Design: Government to scrap design and access statements for most works

June 5th, 2013

Design: Government to scrap design and access statements for most works

The Government has announced it will scrap design and access statements for the majority of planning applications later this month.

From 25 June, the statements will only be needed for major developments: buildings more than 1,000 metres-squared and housing projects of ten dwellings or more. They will also still be required for listed building consent, though the requirements in conservation areas have been relaxed.

The coalition’s decision has split the profession. Some welcome the plan, described as a ‘more proportionate approach’ to planning applications, while others fear it will leave the public struggling to understand the design intention from drawings alone.

Despite assurances by Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, that the relaxation was based on industry-wide consultation – and though the RIBA has backed the shake-up – many architects remained unconvinced by the changes, claiming the public is ill-equipped to judge applications by drawings alone.

Stephen Harding, the RIBA’s former Head of Public Affairs, who worked with Richard Rogers in Parliament to get the statements onto the statute books, said: ‘At best this move is careless. At worst, it is further evidence of the Government’s disregard for design quality. It makes it too easy for local planners to overlook the design elements of planning applications, leaving the rest of us to live with the consequences.’

Meanwhile, David Bonnett, formerly a member of Cabe’s Inclusion by Design Group, said the change marked a ‘worrying reversal for inclusive design, especially for housing’ and feared for the future of the Lifetimes Homes standard.

He said: ‘Lifetime Homes Standards, the benchmark for inclusivity in housing, are only reviewed as part of the planning process and are not covered by later approvals stages.

‘This means that Lifetime Homes are now less likely to feature in small projects. ‘I can only hope the minister will change his mind or at least encourage local authorities to adopt Lifetime Homes standards for all projects as part of local planning frameworks. To do otherwise, simply shifts the burden of poor housing, once more, to a future generation.’

For further information, visit the Architects’ Journal website

Design: Scrapping design statements creates confusion

Scrapping design and access statements will fail to cut red tape and instead create additional costs and uncertainty, planners have warned.

Design and access statements will cease to be a statutory requirement for the majority of planning applications from June. But, councils said they will still require the information provided by the statements while planners warned that replacing a standardised approach with ad hoc arrangements at each local authority will merely create confusion.

Westminster City Council’s Director of Planning Rosemarie MacQueen said: ‘It is one of these things where you should be careful what you wish for. It has not been local authorities lobbying to get rid of these things, it’s been the private sector, and getting rid of them means a certain lack of clarity.’

Other councils also said they would continue to seek design and access information. Southwark Council’s Director of Planning Simon Bevan said: ‘Southwark still wants to ensure that the right design standards are met, and therefore we will consider setting our own policy requirements which reflect local priorities.’

The Government has confirmed that councils can set their own design and access policies leaving applicants to explain how they meet these criteria in a proportionate manner.

While some architects said they would continue to submit design and access statements whether they are formally required or not.

For further information, visit the Building Design Online website