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Thames Gateway

Volume 465: debated on Wednesday 24 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what response she has made to the recommendation made by the Williams Commission in its report, Quality First: The Commission on Design of Affordable Housing in the Thames Gateway, that the Planning Inspectorate should send a stronger message to developers and local authorities that low quality in the design of housing schemes is a legitimate basis upon which planning applications should be refused. (160076)

The independent report by the Williams Commission was commissioned by the Housing Corporation and as such the Government do not intend to make a formal response. However, the report makes a very valuable contribution to the debate on urban design and affordable housing and the Department has considered the recommendations aimed at central Government carefully.

The planning system already allows for planning applications to be turned down on design grounds. Planning inspectors take decisions on planning appeals in accordance with design policies in the development plan and published Government policy. The Department supports the work that the Planning Inspectorate (with help from the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) are already doing to promote good design and ensuring their inspectors are fully trained on design issues. This is supported by guidance including By Design: Urban Design in the Planning System.

The Government have set out their design policy in planning policy statement 3: Housing (November 2006). The Housing Green Paper (July 2007) set out the next steps: that we will work on design quality metrics to ensure that we have sufficiently robust and flexible measurement systems for design quality, to ensure that local authorities are able to monitor progress in achieving higher quality, and to continue to raise the design skills levels of key professionals.