The government has just published the latest version of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which sets out the latest planning policies for England and how these are expected to be applied.
Much to the anger of the volume housebuilders, whose speculative ‘identikit’ estates have wreaked havoc on the countryside and led to unaffordable and car-dependent executive homes, Michael Gove announced that the NPPF has scrapped requirements for councils to allocate Green Belt land to meet housing targets. The loss of Green Belt land is irreversible. I think most architects will support this move, not least because very few are involved in the delivery of these unsustainable predesigned boxes anyway.
The revised NPPF also includes sections on urban areas including the role new housing can play in regeneration and the support of local economies. Gove stated that the creation of new homes will be targeted on towns and cities where people want to live and work. I think most architects will support this too. In urban areas architects can bring their unique design skills to bear to release value even in the most problematic situations. No two urban sites are alike – all require an imaginative bespoke solution.
Take, for example, my local town of East Grinstead in West Sussex which is undergoing a bit of a renaissance. It was always an attractive place to live on account of, amongst other things, its history, location at the top of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, proximity to London, access to the south coast and its upmarket High Street. Now on account of the conversion of offices to low energy flats, other residential developments and the move to working from home, a car-free town centre residential ‘scene’ has developed. There are plenty of opportunities for this trend to continue – most of which will require imaginative architectural solutions to realise them.