I work largely in the private residential sector, where the traditional procurement route prevails, but beyond that is a world of daunting complexity where land is no longer a human right or state provision, it is a valuable, trade-able asset. Of course, I am under no illusion that this is a new concept, but in this article I explore what changes to the current planning framework could help architect's add greater quality and value to construction projects.
I am writing partly in response to an article by Anthony Thistleton-Smith, 22-10-15 on BD Online, where his discussion touched on the changing look of the architect's client, and how architects can fit in to a changing construction industry. His contention focused on legislating to keep architects tied to sites, and changing the planning laws to incentivise clients to build out their scheme, rather than sell unbuilt sites with planning permission for profit.
He goes on to offer that the current framework is shifting accountability from the original applicant and architect, negating any relationship established with the local authority and other stakeholders. An application is cited where an approval was later appropriated for a use considered unsuitable by the original stakeholders. I agree that this is an unfavourable situation and should not be allowed to happen.
Mr Roger Zogolovitch has expressed similar concerns about the way the UK planning system currently operates, in his recently released book, 'Shouldn't We All Be Developers,' which I would strongly recommend to anyone interested in the topic. Mr Zogolovitch cites both Germany and the Netherlands as countries where planning policy offers the largest returns at point of sale, rather than point of planning, a framework also lauded by the late Sir Peter Hall.
This in turn facilitates sustained public investment in town planning departments, rather than relying upon the private-sector to conduct research on behalf of government, only to profit from it later eg. the botched sale of the Royal Mail perhaps, where government confided in private sector parties that stood to benefit, prior to the event.
Mr Thistleton-Smith's suggestion of tying architects to sites could be seen as a large and uncomfortable decision for clients, who may be dissuaded from signing such long and costly agreements without provision for exit from the contract. The proposal could be perceived to favour architects and fail to protect the client's interests.
A 'new planning framework' could be better supported using the existing Section 106 infrastructure that Thistleton-Smith discusses, where obligations to a specific build quality and compliance with Building Regulations etc, must be agreed at the planning stages.
Much like a defects list attached to the sale of a building that is either listed or owned by a Trust, the cost of delivering a compliant and high quality project should be reviewed at the planning stage, regardless of whether the site is to be sold at point of planning. This would behave as a due-diligence exercise for any construction project. Local authority's have had District Surveyors for many years, but they don't seem to be given the remit or resources to manage buildingquality in addition to building compliance.
The planning process is thick with risk for the client, as they rely on consultant knowledge and expertise to secure approval. To add these extra measures will inflate the client's costs at the planning stage, but would lay the foundations for a quality building - pardon the pun. By forcing an applicant's hand in preparing this documentation, would they be more motivated to built-out the scheme themselves? Or would they just sell it on? Regardless of the outcome, the quality of the finished scheme would be improved due to the outline specification being included as a condition at the Planning Stage.
The main challenge is how do we 'assess' design quality at the planning stage? I'm sorry, but I have only an idea and no mechanism to deliver it. Sorry to disappoint you. I only present this idea as an attempt to realign the financial incentives in the construction industry. And subsequently increase the delivery of quality buildings in the UK. With so many different shapes and sizes of client nowadays, I don't know how successful we can be in halting the trading of land as a commodity, because since the first of the Enclosure Acts was passed in 1604, this has been the case.
"Don't hate the player, hate the game."
Britain Must Tie Planning Consent To Architects Not Sites If We Are To Halt Insane Land Speculation, Anthony Thistleton-Smith, Founding Director at Waugh Thistleton, 22 October 2015, BD Online. (apologies to non-subscribers)
Shouldn't We All Be Developers? Roger Zogolovitch, 2015, Artifice Books
Good Cities, Better Lives, Sir Peter Hall with Nicholas Falk, 2014, Routledge
This is post has been revised and re-published from an original blog article 03.11.2015 http://www.tomhaworth.com/blog/2015/11/3/dont-hate-the-player-hate-the-game