The Task Force voiced concern about the government's sustainable communities plan, pointing to "growing anxiety about the Plan's overall cost financially, socially and politically".
The report commented: "Local communities face development that appears to be imposed on them from outside with too little care and attention given to their views about what matters in their local environment.
"Opportunities to make better use of urban land, and thus reduce transport-related emissions are being missed," insisted the report.
Meanwhile, one of the government's most prominent "green" advisers has just said he is "mystified" that the government has not yet insisted that all the new housing proposed for the growth areas is built to meet the most stringent standards on sustain- ability.
Jonathon Porritt, chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission, told a Commons select committee that he could not understand why the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister was not pursing a deal that new homes could only be built provided they met "the highest sustainability standards".
The Task Force's concern about design has been echoed by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), which has just reported that only six per cent of 93 schemes completed by volume house builders across a swathe of northern England were judged "good" or "very good". Some 70 per cent were classified as "average" and 24 per cent were judged to be "poor".
Replying to the Urban Task Force report, CABE postulated that local planning authorities should be monitored for quality of design "not just speed of delivery". The commission also called for practical support to help LPAs "measure and monitor design quality, rather than just layering another target and more pressure on already over-bur- dened teams."
A spokesman for the ODPM has welcomed the report and highlighted the administration's commitment to better design, pointing out that the department had stressed the importance of good urban design as integral to planning policy.
"Already 67 per cent of local authorities have design champions compared to 22 per cent in 2001"
The Urban Task Force’s ideas are gaining some powerful supporters who perceive, possibly, a change of sentiment amongst Britain’s house- holders. BRE are turning greener and are set to launch a aUK Green Building Council to help reduce the environmental impact of buildings. The Green Building Council would be a coalition of the willing , of those industry groups interested in working with government to reduce carbon emissions and the environmental impact of buildings.
It is heartening to see flagship buildings, such as the £60 million Welsh Asssembly Building in Cardiff Bay, recently opened by the Queen taking a lead in promoting environmentally sensitive solutions. The building sees Richard Rogers practising what he’s been preaching and it has been awarded BRE’s highest ever rating for environmen- tal friendliness. Clever use of enhanced natural ventilation will
cut down on energy usage as does the use of “greywater” recycled from run-off from the building’s roofs.
The building, designed by RRP, BDSP Partnership and Arup and constructed by Taylor Woodrow Construction Ltd, has been awarded a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ Rating, which puts it in the very highest category of sustainable building.
The award recognises the low envi- ronmental impact that the building has achieved through careful use of renewable and low energy solutions to construct, heat and maintain the building. The building's score is the highest ever achieved by a BREAM Assessed Development in Wales.
Finance Minister, Sue Essex received the award from the Director of BRE, David Crowhurst.
Sue Essex said: "I am delighted that this landmark project has been recognised as being at the cutting edge of sustainable design and con- struction. Sustainability is at the heart of Welsh Assembly Government policies.
"We are committed to setting an example to both the private and public sectors and demonstrating that buildings can be designed to achieve long term savings in running costs and emissions."
Richard Rogers added: "I am delighted that The National Assembly building has been recognised as an exemplar of envi- ronmental design - we responded enthusiastically to the requirement for a building that maximises natural daylight and ventilation to reduce energy usage - winning BRE's highest award is very gratifying."
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