RIBA’s recent publishing of two guides to help architects take a lead on delivering localism is to be welcomed.
I would wholeheartedly agree with RIBA president Angela Brady’s assessment that architects have the necessary skills and expertise to help realise this concept, which has now passed into law with the formation of the Localism Act.
If architects are appointed by their clients to guide them through the planning process, then of course it falls to us to persuade clients of the merits of investing in good design that meets and exceeds local needs.
Of course, that may be easier in the public sector where local authorities are duty-bound to act in the best interests of communities, but the Localism Act also presents a unique opportunity for architects to help private developers build better relationships with local residents.
If anything, localism should lead to fewer contentious developments, not the other way round. If both architects and developers can keep an open mind, the reality should be a smoother planning process and projects that get off the ground quicker.
I expect some architects will argue that we don’t need a Localism Act, let alone a guide to localism, to help us engage with communities, that’s our job anyway.
While they may be right, if the profession doesn’t grab localism by the scruff of the neck, other parts of the built environment sector will.
Place making is what we do. It would be a shame if we allowed the whole ethos of improving communities to pass us by.