House of Lords Publishes ‘Building Better Places’ Report

house of lords

The House of Lords Select Committee on the National Policy of the Built Environment has published its report. Appointed by the House of Lords on 11 June 2015, the Select Committee was  “to consider the development and implementation of national policy for the built environment”.

Building better places was published on Friday 19 February 2016, and contains a range of recommendations designed to improve the way national policy is developed and implemented in the built environment, including design quality, sustainability, housing and professional skills.

The report is set out in 5 key sections:

  1. The built environment: recent trends and emerging challenges
  2. Creating better places: design, quality and standards
  3. Building for the long-term: sustainability and resilience
  4. Delivering more housing
  5. Local leadership, delivery and skills

Noel Farrer, representing The Landscape Institute in October 2015, provided evidence in person to the Select Committee and transcripts of this evidence can be viewed at  – transcript of evidence   In addition, the Landscape Institute submitted 2 sets of written evidence BEN0136 and Supplementary Written Evidence (BEN0208)

Following the submissions of evidence one particular area discussed by the Committee was the setting up of a new sub-national spatial planning framework for England that would articulate Government policy. That framework should be based on the National Character Map of England as published by Natural England and would focus on the distinctive variations in the landscape and not on administrative boundaries.

These spatial plans might cover more than one Character Area – an example of this is the draft Local Plan for the South Downs National Park which absorbs 11 local plans and covers two distinctive character areas. They would for the first time cover town and country by integrating economic, social and environmental imperatives. They could be administered by Joint Committees (including central government agencies) under the Local Government Act and approved by the Secretary of State. They would refocus all relevant levels of the public sector intervention on sustainable place-making to meet today’s challenges and the needs of future generations.

This new spatial planning framework would help good quality place-making and encourage multifunctional green infrastructure by:

  • Providing a clear corporate government policy for new development and the management of town and country, mapped spatially;
  • Setting out the baseline character of all places that are valued by the population as the starting point of any new development;
  • Identifying the utilitarian aspects of urban spaces and land for public good;
  •  Providing clarity in government policy for regulators as they apply to specific places;
  • Redirecting democratic intervention to concentrate on places rather than on administrations – either geographic or topic; and
  • Establishing a programme of delivering sub-national spatial plans (priorities for the production of these new spatial plans based on need).
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