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New Government strategy heralds minimum design standard for all new public buildings

Communities secretary Hazel Blears and culture secretary Andy Burnham have today urged councils and developers to put good planning, local character and high quality design at the heart of development.

A new cross-Government strategy out today stresses that good quality buildings and ample green infrastructure - parks, trees and waterways - are not a luxury that can be dropped during difficult economic circumstances.

In World Class Places, the Government pledges that all new public and private development will be built to the highest design standards. All new government-funded building programmes, including social housing, schools and health centres, will include improved design standards. Every significant public sector project could have the opportunity to be advised or reviewed by a team of design experts from the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE).

The Government will also establish an integrated set of design quality standards for homes and neighbourhoods to ensure the quality of design does not slip. These will cover the key issues that are fundamental to good design, such as sustainable and practical development, and using design to discourage crime and address the needs of older people and disabled people.

Hazel Blears said: “Badly designed housing estates and low quality neighbourhoods encourage crime, undermine communities, deter investment, spoil the environment and cost a fortune in the long term.

“If we give up on good design now, we will simply create rundown areas which we will all have to live with once we get beyond this recession - and we’ll end up paying for them twice.

“That’s why we can’t let the economic challenges we are facing now provide an excuse for bad planning, careless maintenance and poor quality buildings. It is vital we continue to build new houses, schools and hospitals to the very highest standards and we continue to maintain our great built heritage and invest in green spaces and green infrastructure.”

Andy Burnham, who is Government Design Champion, said:

“Buildings and their surroundings matter to us all. But the towns, public spaces and streets that we cherish and value have not come about by accident. They have been planned and designed, respecting and investing in the existing built environment and integrating the new with the old. Some of our greatest assets as a nation - and the things that overseas visitors most often remark upon - are the historic buildings and places that express our past and celebrate our present.

“Good design is not an extravagance. In the present economic context, it is vital not to relax in our quest for well designed houses, schools, hospitals, offices, and town centres. Achieving excellent quality of place and sustainable buildings should be at the heart of our thinking, and this new strategy will help us redouble our efforts to ensure that good design improves the quality of life for everyone.”

The strategy recognises the need for an approach which works right across government, and brings together all the elements of the built environment: new public buildings, heritage and conservation, regeneration and public services.

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