We’ve now seen the housing white paper "Fixing our broken housing market" which is principally focused on dealing with the slow planning system.
It remains to be seen if local planning authorities will still be able to override the new options proposed for brownfield and green belt land and, perhaps, the provision of a standard methodology for calculating housing need will help in the longer term.
Helpfully there are proposals to help small and medium developers and there are mentions of other specialist areas, like custom self-build. LABC has a special interest in smaller local schemes of any sort and a long history of providing support to SME, small contractors and architects or clients building one-off homes. However, the housing target requires volume and LABC is looking at how PLC developers can be better supported.
This links to the current focus on the quality of new homes. The report and recommendations from the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Quality of New Homes triggered the reporting of many terrible examples of quality. Few companies escape from these and it is clear that there are underlying issues the industry has to focus on.
How LABC is helping
For LABC’s part we will work even more closely with clients so that quality management can be looked at from a wider perspective. Building regulations require certain parts of the construction to be made to a certain standard.
However, this doesn’t equate to the ‘quality’ perceived by a house purchaser which would include quality of finish. However, building control is an element that developers can relate to their own and their contractors’ own QM processes, warranty. This can be done with warranty too so that quality is handled more holistically.
In our research we've found that more inspections produce better outcomes, as does better cooperation and coordination of the different people on site looking at quality. An ideal time for this to start is during the final design phase before construction.
LABC will work with developers on ‘house types’ and plan verification at developers’ own head offices. We invite our warranty team and sometimes QS specialists and others to look at the specification and supply of materials. We even work with companies like Jewsons’ Greenworks to ensure that good design, specification and compliance are integrated at the outset.
Nor is LABC complacent about its own work. In fact, we have spent nine months consulting on a new ‘Standards Framework’ in LABC so that we can achieve greater consistency and adopt the same best practices delivered to the same standards. This new framework will be launched this spring and we have a head start by guiding all local authority teams on improvements to the recording of site records.
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