Civic Voice is the national charity for the civic movement. We are campaigning for a more accessible, balanced, collaborative, and democratic system, as set out in our Manifesto. Since we set up in 2010, we have been joined by hundreds of volunteer-led, community based civic societies with over 76,000 individual members.
According to research by the Place Alliance, during the first lockdown, a sixth of individuals were either uncomfortable or very uncomfortable in their homes. At a time when the nation was ordered to stay at home, it is shocking to think that, extrapolated across the UK , it would represent 10.7 million uncomfortable people. Lockdown provided a unique opportunity to stress-test our homes and their immediate environments, and to gauge whether or not they have supported our everyday needs. It failed for many. As we sit here in Lockdown 2 and you read this blog, these same people are experiencing that feeling again. This is wrong. We must do something to change this.
That is why we’re proud to support the Town and Country Planning Association’s Healthy Homes Act campaign calling for a new piece of legislation: a Healthy Homes Bill.
Change is needed and we must accept that the current planning system is not perfect, has become over complex and is not providing enough high-quality places or high quality homes. Even the government’s own Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission remarked of PDR in its final report that the policy has “inadvertently permissioned future slums”. As the Government’s planning white paper completes the consultation process, we call on communities to consider embracing design codes and guides and implementing the Healthy Homes Act principles at a local level.
48% of Civic Voice members agree with the need to build 300,000 new homes a year, but consider that we should be building the right homes in the right places, of a high-quality standard. The elements set out in the Healthy Homes Act. If the Government is not going to take the Bill forward, we call on communities to act locally and to consider using design guides and codes to help them implement these ideas.
Without exception, all new and newly converted homes should be built to decent national minimum space standards and in a manner that prioritises good environmental conditions in the home: access to fresh air, daylight and good insulation against the transmission of noise.
When done well, design codes and guides can support these aims and allow adoption considerations such as open space and windows to be coordinated at an early stage with design, development and planning matters, and set out specific standards for rigorous enforcement, where necessary.
By enshrining a series of ‘healthy homes principles’ into law, this bill would put individuals and communities’ health and wellbeing at the heart of government decision-making on planning and building control. Addressing issues such as accessibility, access to green space, noise and light pollution, size of windows to allow natural light, safety in relation to the risk of fire and secure, these principles, at an absolute minimum, define a healthy home and neighbourhood.
Our members have made it clear that they support growth, with 71% accepting the need for more housing and 48% broadly supportive of the
Planning White Paper housing target of 300,000 homes. We do have a housing crisis, but it’s not just the numbers that are built. It’s an affordability crisis. But whoever builds the homes, must build them
that are fit for purpose. The call for a Healthy Homes Bill, led by TCPA, will help to reinforce that, which is why Civic Voice is pleased to support the call for these ten key principles to be adopted to drive forward the development of better homes and places.