Housing and Regeneration 13th May 2008

Lord Mawson: I, too, welcome the amendment. Since I entered your Lordships’ House I have been very encouraged by the concern about quality of design. I was very encouraged by the debate, which I could not attend but which I read, in which the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, spoke, on the quality of design. One can see that there is real concern. However, to a large degree, across the country, we do not have design quality. Design quality is a practical matter. In east London, our experience has been that when you build quality buildings, the social environment begins to change as does the way in which people relate to that environment. My view is that we are the environments in which we live. If we create certain kinds of environments we will create certain kinds of

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public behaviour; if we create other forms of environments we can create public behaviour which is unhelpful.

Design matters, and it has very serious financial implications. My experience over the years of building and trying to create quality design, is that it is important to have individuals in the process who care, long term, about the buildings. Trying to bring buildings and design together takes a long time and the process is quite complicated. You need someone who cares about the process, who gets out of bed on a Monday morning and worries about it and about the types of buildings that are being built. When I have looked at different developments around the country, I have discovered that generally the buildings that look the best have an individual behind them who worries and cares about them.

The aspiration is there but how do turn it into practice on the ground? There is great concern that that is not happening at the moment. I am involved in a development, in east London, for a very difficult group of estates. We have been through 50 different designs, at a cost of more than £3 million, but still not a brick has been laid. We need to think very carefully about the practical consequences of what the Bill imposes.

I support the amendment. We and the agency need to think carefully about quality, not just quantity. I was very encouraged by my conversation yesterday, which was enabled by the Minister, with Sir Bob Kerslake. He is concerned about these matters and we need to create the kind of legislation that strengthens his hand and enables him to get a grip on this issue. For me, it is about quality before quantity. I support what my noble friend Lord Best says about enabling levers.

Developments need an individual who cares about them. If we are to spend all this money, it has to be about place-making. As we know, in the history of society, place-making is usually about an individual or a small group of people taking hold of a place over time and making something happen.