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Important Sites (Development)

Volume 12: debated on Thursday 5 November 1981

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what recent responses he has had to his call for higher architectural quality in the development of important sites.

I have issued a consultation letter floating the idea that special development order procedures might be used for development proposals which result from suitably organised architectural competitions. A developer—Arunbridge Ltd.—has now come forward with an imaginative scheme for a competition for a substantial area of the South Bank at Vauxhall. I welcome this response to my suggestions for seeking high architectural quality on important sites. The land use issues relating to these sites have already been considered by the local planning authority and proposals for two of the sites have been discussed at public inquiries. These conditions may or may not always apply. But, certainly in the case of the first experiment, it is a helpful background. I therefore intend laying an order before Parliament, provided that the developers choose to proceed with a scheme of proven merit emerging from the competition. This in no way prejudges decisions following the consultation process on the much wider-ranging consultation paper.My present role is restricted to allowing or rejecting one particular proposal submitted by way of planning application. The SDO procedure enables a degree of involvement much earlier that might lead to a greater certainty for the developer if he works from the outset within a planning brief that has my support. It may also lead to useful savings in time. Further, the procedure would encourage a wider public debate about a range of choices and solutions for a particular site that is not usually available when only one scheme is the subject of a planning application.An earlier application by Arunbridge Ltd. for part of the area—the Effra site—was the subject of one of the public inquiries to which I referred earlier. At the developer's request I have put into abeyance consideration of the Effra application while this wider proposal is being examined. However, in order to inform public comment at the final stage of the competition, I am arranging to make available the inspector's report on the Inquiry into the Effra scheme.