This week saw the first Queen’s Speech in two years – and like 2017 Brexit was front and centre of the UK government’s plans. While the UK government and MPs in Parliament tussle over the details of the withdrawal agreement over the next few days, there were also a number of announcements which will affect the domestic agenda for architects.
In his response to the Queen’s Speech, RIBA President Alan Jones said: “In this time of political uncertainty, meaningful action is needed to make the UK open, global and fit for future generations. I hope today’s proposals on immigration, infrastructure and the environment will have an impact, but that will really depend on the detail.
Newly announced legislation for building standards is welcome but must contain robust new requirements, including for sprinklers in new and converted homes and better means of warning and escape. The recent wave of fires, following on from the tragedy at Grenfell Tower over two years ago, has exposed the frightening scale of the crisis – and the need for architects to work on projects from design through to occupation. It is a simple ask – buildings must be safe.”
Building safety standards
Following the Hackitt Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, the UK government is to introduce new legislation aimed at putting in place a new regulatory regime for England. Although specific details on what will be included in the Bill are yet to be published, it is highly likely to affect the existing regime for architects and others.
The UK government has stated that this legislation will provide clearer accountability and stronger duties on those responsible for the safety of high-rise buildings and provide residents a stronger voice. The legislation will also require developers of new homes must below to a New Homes Ombudsman.
The environment and infrastructure
Sustainability and climate change remain high on the political agenda. The UK government has now published a wide-ranging Environment Bill which looks to introduce legislation on everything from air pollution to plastics, to biodiversity.
The Bill aims to provide an active requirement on public authorities to seek the conservation and enhancement of nature. It also aims to put Local Nature Recovery Strategies to put spatial planning on a statutory footing.
The UK government will publish the National Infrastructure in later this autumn. The Strategy aims at closing the productivity gap between London and the rest of the UK, and support action to meet with UK’s commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
The UK government announced a new Immigration Bill which would legally bring to an end the right of Freedom of Movement between the UK and EU, and sets up the framework for the future immigration system. This Bill means that EU citizens arriving after January 2021 would be subject to the same system as non-EU citizens. 80% of non-UK architects registered in the UK are from the European Union, and new immigration controls will potentially introduce higher requirements
The Migration Advisory Committee, which advises the Home Office on immigration matters, is currently consulting on how an “Australian-style” points-based system would work in the UK. The RIBA is responding to this consultation.