Only Architects should make planning applications…

Following my post on Passive House Designers and the vitriolic (and some lovely) comments, let’s now take the argument a stage further:

  • On a recent planning application, the planning department asked for a Landscape Plan (as part of a further information request) prepared by a suitably qualified landscape architect.
  • A Site Suitability Assessment/Tests/Report for effluent disposal using septic tanks/proprietary effluent treatment units need to be completed by a suitably qualified person in this field
  • I’m currently working on a site that may require an ecological impact statement prepared by a suitably qualified person (Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management).
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    Yet the actual design of the house (or in fact any other building) can be done by ANYBODY !

    The ONLY professional specifically trained to design buildings (not as an adjunct to a course) is I believe, the architect.

    My proposal is therefore very simple – All planning applications should be submitted under the principal of an architectural practice.

    This isn’t a revolutionary idea and is adopted by many countries France (as example) being one. CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS ON THE FRENCH PLANNING SYSTEM

    So, let’s open it up – the proposal is simple – Should Architects be the only people suitably qualified to submit planning applications ?

    0 thoughts on “Only Architects should make planning applications…

    1. Mark,

      I would have to go against the obvious interests of my profession here and say no.

      I don’t believe that every building requires the use of an architect. To give a fairly extreme example, there’s no need to get an architect to draw up a new garage; a technician is more than capable of doing this.

      Design quality is far more important than people realise; there’s still a view that design is something you sprinkle over an ordinary building by adding a bit of nice lighting here and there. It isn’t; it’s about good planning, massing, composition, and clever use of budget to get the most bang for the client’s buck. However, the real problem – in my opinion – is that the planning laws do not recognise the need for design quality anywhere in their drafting, and local authorities don’t have the staff capable of policing it if they did.

      Ultimately, it’s about the quality of design for the end user, it’s not about the interests profession. Architects should be confident that, if design quality was taken into account during planning applications, their clients would have a significant advantage and the profession would benefit naturally – otherwise, what does the profession have to offer?

      Protection through legislation, on the other hand, is the sort of thing that could lead to laziness in design on the part of architects, and that’s something that shouldn’t happen.

      I could see an argument for it being a requirement for buildings of a certain complexity, however.

    2. I would disagree with you there Mark for a number of reasons;

      1. Not all planning application are for dwellings or buildings. If someone was to go for planning permission for an replacement waste water treatment unit, an architect’s input in terms of design is minimal.

      2. Competition;Never done anyone any harm. However I do think that applications should be prepared only by professionals(members of professional bodies with PI, obliged to adhere to a Code of Conduct etc and a formal qualification in building) within the industry. Architects, Architectural Technologists/technicians, Building Surveyors, Engineers, Planners;

      3. Many architects (along others) have contributed to the many poorly designed dwellings/buildings and developments, which have been build in this country in the last 10-15 years.

      The biggest problem I have and I’m sure you will agree is with, is those who assess planning applications(in Ireland) in that manycase are not the suitability qualified themselves to assess individual planning applications in that;
      1. How many planners have any architectural or design backround or training?
      2. How many planning authorities have even one qualified architect?

      To prove my case, how often has a planner insisted on a ridge of of say 7.5 m (because it was in the local rural design guidelines) resulting in a shallow pitched storey and a half house, although the house would have looked proportionally better at a ridge height of 8.0m and fitted into the landscape better.

    3. Great post once again Mark,

      The consideration I would make with regard to your point is to assess what impact such a move would have on the wider appreciation of the architect. If such a step would help pave the way for true protection of title then I’m all for it, anything that can be done to protect architects more is a good thing (it is scandalous the low opinion the public have of our profession – most sane people would never pull their own teeth or represent themselves in court, yet people feel the can do our jobs).
      If however this step started to have serious repercussions that further delayed planning applications, or required extra measures be taken within the process then I don’t feel its something that should be done.
      Also, I’m all for architect Part II’s getting fully accredited, but you can’t deny that there are plenty Part II’s up and down the UK who are more than competent at their job, comparable to many fully qualified architects – how would such a move affect them?

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