Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill
Baroness Maddock (Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions; Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, as in Committee, I support the noble Lords, Lord Lucas and Lord Rogers, in highlighting the importance of design in the new planning process. Since our previous debate I have had the opportunity to look at the Consultation Paper on Planning Policy Statement 1. There are many things with which I agree in paragraph 1.27 headed, "Sustainable Development and Design". Earlier, I spoke about sustainability and, in particular, energy.
I especially agree that quality design,
"is a key element in achieving sustainable development",
"Good design is not just about the architecture".
We have touched on other issues today. The consultation paper states that good design is about functionality and the impact of a building,
"on the overall character, quality and sustainability of an area including resource efficiency (for example energy consumption).
For me, that is a very wide area.
I also agree with the statement:
"There should be no acceptance of ill-conceived designs which do not contribute positively to making places better for people",
which was an underlying theme in our last discussion.
One of the things I feel sorry about is that in many local authorities design is not high enough on the agenda when considering developments. In other areas we see that despite the difficulties one faces when one tries to improve the design of a planning application, some local authorities manage it well. That can be seen by going around.
In another guise I was the Member of Parliament for Christchurch for some years and I admired the way the local planners had vision about how they wanted the town to be. In planning applications they involved local architects in creating a good quality of design in the buildings. Yet I have been to other places where it is obvious that no one could care less about their environment.
Over the years, having spent a great deal of time living in and visiting Scandinavia, I have become convinced that the majority of people's well-being is affected—not all people; I have made the point before that some people see nothing around them—by their surroundings. They certainly contribute to my sense of well-being. Many years ago I stayed in an awful bed and breakfast while in Cambridge visiting my first husband when he was a student. It was a dark place with a horribly dark bathroom, and I felt miserable when I stayed there.
In proposing the importance of design in the planning system, none of us thinks that particular architectural styles must be imposed. That is not what it is about; and I am sure the Government do not think that is what it is about. The places that we find attractive and that have endured over the years are usually those that have been well designed and planned. I can think of two that I mentioned on the previous occasion: first, brick flats in Millbank, built by London county council in 1901. They endure today and are still a pleasant environment in which to live. Secondly, going back even further, Lord North Street, which I walk down every morning, is the same. It is an important issue.
I picked up some of the Minister's earlier comments that it is to be hoped that at the next stage the Government will come forward with something that will satisfy our desire to see design become an important part of the planning process, not just in some of the best authorities but everywhere.