IHBC welcomes new research on LPA Urban Design services: Confirms England’s housing delivery threatened by design skills shortage

Design Skills publication Oct 2017The IHBC has welcomed new research into Local Planning Authority (LPA) Urban Design (UD) skills and services by a team at UCL’s Bartlett School of Planning – supported by the Urban Design Group (UDG) and the PLACE Alliance – which both maps the serious design skills shortages in public services and highlights how these might constrain England’s housing delivery plans. 

IHBC Education Secretary Andrew Shepherd said: ‘The IHBC welcomes any report that, like this, can offer hard evidence to support the contentions that we continue to make: that good design of places requires skilled input from practitioners and statutory authorities.’

‘Does anyone really want a return to the bad old days pre-1947 and the effective establishment of the planning system that has generally served society well since then?  That said, Government would seem to want that by starving local authorities of the funds necessary to hire appropriate expertise.’

IHBC Projects Officer Fiona Newton said:  The decline in urban design capacity shown in this report echoes the serious declines in conservation and archaeology services.   Regular IHBC research into conservation provision in local authorities has shown a 37% the decline in conservation services since 2006.’

‘We know that heritage professionals continue make critical contributions to the provision of design advice in planning authorities, not least as urban design typically takes place inside the historic environment rather than outside it.’

‘As design skills are a critical competence in the IHBC’s interdisciplinary suite of skills, the institute expects that fully accredited IHBC members active in design roles are suitably trained in the design aspects of heritage care, management and development.’ 

PLACE Alliance writes:

The Government, both in its manifesto and in the recent Housing Green Paper, committed itself to a step change in the delivery of high quality new homes across the country.  Research published today puts those aspirations in doubt because of worsening design skills gaps in English local planning authorities. 

This report summarises the findings of a freedom of information survey of urban design skills within local planning authorities, and how they have changed over the last five years. It demonstrates that urban design skills and capacity within local planning authorities are woefully low and declining and that these gaps are not being filled by the patchy, albeit increasing, use of design review. Critical gaps exist within local planning authorities, including the ability to produce proactive design guidance in-house in order to positively shape the future of new housing developments.

A very real danger now exists that as we gear up to deliver a greater number of homes nationally, the absence of design expertise locally will result in a new generation of substandard developments. This, for example, includes new housing estates that are dominated by roads and tarmac, lacking any greenery or character, and which are disconnected from public transport and local amenities. These, moreover, will be with us for generations to come.’

See recent IHBC reporting on LPA conservation service capacity

DOWNLOAD the IHBC’s research on Design and Conservation roles

DOWNLOAD The report from PLACE Alliance

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