Planners versus developers and a familiar tale of labour shortages …

December 1960

Sounds familiar

Speaking at the annual dinner of the Incorporated Association of Architects and Surveyors, held at the House of Commons, Lord Silkin said that whilst it appeared that the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act had stood the test of time, and that the public now recognised that some form of control over development was essential, he could not disguise his concern about the manner in which planning control had come to be administered.

Town and country planning was only acceptable provided that individual hardship could be avoided and the length of time which now commonly passed between application and award was now plainly excessive.

Lord Silkin went on to say that widespread conviction that some planning officers tended to impose their own views on developers did not appear to be unjustified.

Replying to Lord Silkin, the president of the association, councillor WJ Clark, said that town and country planning seemed to have lost the attraction that it had for the public a decade ago. It had become a highly bureaucratic and impersonal affair. In its regulatory aspect it was little more than a police function, a kind of curb on the disorderly.

In his view local authorities should be given wider powers over design and elevational treatment.

Back to the future

Fred Pooley, the Buckinghamshire county architect, highlighted manpower shortages in the building industry in a statement to the council’s building committee. He said while production had increased, it had not kept pace with increased prices. He concluded that greater reliance must in future be placed on prefabrication and off-site systems of production to increase productivity.

He noted: “I am finding it difficult in some of the rural areas to find builders to tender for projects by way of public advertisements or by personal invitation. I am told that building labour in these areas is unavailable.

“Even the larger jobs in the urban areas are suffering from shortages of labour. We have at the present time £1.75m of live work on hand, an increase on last year, but the labour force has dropped from 600 to 550.”

Mr Pooley noted that productivity had increased, by about 15% over the past four years, but he added that building prices had increased by 20% over the same period.

In these circumstances, he considered it would be prudent for the council committee to place restrictions on the amount of work it was carrying out and consider some non-proprietary prefabricated form of construction that would further increase productivity and make some use of factory labour outside the area.