Planner calls for more variety in house designs

A SENIOR planner has hit out at a ‘more of the same’ attitude to house design.

Ian Poole, planning policy manager at St Edmundsbury Borough Council, was one of five speakers at a debate put on by the Royal British Institute of Architects at The Apex on Monday for its Love Architecture Festival.

Mr Poole, who stressed the views were his own, said: “More of the same is becoming a real issue.”

He showed pictures of two identical houses, in Cambridge and Essex, saying: “Authorities across the land have been asked to approve identical house designs. Where’s the Cambridge vernacular?”

He called for places of character to have new buildings with character.

“Look at Bury St Edmunds — it’s a hotch-potch of design but that hotch-potch really works,” he said. But he also asked how many councils had the nerve to approve unusual architecture.

“Planners are under pressure from all directions,” he added. “Developers are saying they will appeal if they don’t get approval. Architects say ‘we know best’, communities say they don’t like that design but you have people in the community saying ‘I really need a house’. ”

Andrew Whitaker, the House Builders’ Federation’s planning director, said one top builder alone had 57 house designs.

“It’s vital for the industry to deliver what the customer wants, not what some policy quack demands,” he said. “One of the biggest complaints about new build is lack of parking. That was a central government planning policy.”