‘Minister for built environment’ a necessity, says RIAI

Institute calls for appointment of architects to have responsibility for groups of towns

In its pre-election wishlist, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland is calling for a Government policy on architecture. File photograph: Getty Images

In its pre-election wishlist, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland is calling for a Government policy on architecture. File photograph: Getty Images

 

A new minister and department of the “built environment” should be set up as part of the next government, according to the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI).

In its pre-election wishlist, the institute is calling for a Government policy on architecture; the appointment of architects with responsibility for each town in the State; a new spatial and infrastructure strategy; a range of measures to deal with the housing crisis, and a new minister to co-ordinate long term planning for building.

Newly appointed RIAI president Carole Pollard said a similar ministerial role already exists in Britain, Poland, the Netherlands, Australia and Canada.

“Having a dedicated minister for the built environment will allow for a co-ordinated approach to planning the long-term needs of people living in Ireland to ensure the delivery of housing, education, healthcare, transport and other facilities where and when they are required that allow for sustainable communities,” she said.

Principles of good design

Some 13 local authorities currently have no county architect. The institute is calling for the appointment of architects to have responsibility for groups of towns and ensure the principles of good design are implemented, Ms Pollard said.

“If you have a town architect you have the potential for joined up thinking on every element of design, from signage, to how a street works - this creates a better quality of life for inhabitants, but also attracts outside investment to the town.”

The institute also has a range of proposals to deal with the housing crisis, including maximising use of existing buildings in towns and cities by expanding and improving the Living over the Shop scheme; allowing VAT reductions for first time buyers; extending the Home Renovation Scheme to 2020 and abolishing VAT from professional fees for renovations; introducing a more efficient, standard public procurement process for all local authorities; and revising social housing procurement criteria to allow a broader range of architectural practices across the country to be in a position to tender for work.