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LONDON-The UK’s planning system has come in for some outspoken criticism from the government’s own architectural watchdog, the Commission on Architecture and the Built Environment. CABE has slammed the system for effectively encouraging developments of mediocre quality.

CABE’s chairman Sir Stuart Lipton originally gave evidence to the government inquiry into the planning system in confidence, but now the organisation’s comments have been made public. It says the system is not an effective tool in positively promoting economic development and urban regeneration. And in design terms it says it tends to apply the lowest common denominator between many vested interests, resulting in developments of mediocre quality.

Sir Stuart Lipton said: ‘The planning system has become incomprehensible to almost everybody. Distant decision-makers with few relevant skills making judgements on the basis of documents that are often 5-7 years out-of-date – it is hardly a recipe for a high quality built environment. It simply hasn’t produced the results and after 50 years, characterised mainly by mediocrity of new buildings and spaces, it is now time for a major reform.’

CABE proposes a simpler system that would reward developers who propose high quality buildings and spaces . And to finance a better system it suggests raising the level of planning application fees.

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