Newly appointed boss of English Partnerships calls for architects to be reined in and housebuilders to shape up.
John Callcutt, the new chief executive of English Partnerships, has stamped his authority on the regeneration agency by criticising architects for poor design and calling on housebuilders to deliver on government targets.
The comments came in the run-up to this week's Budget, in which chancellor Gordon Brown outlined a review of regeneration agencies, putting EP's future under the spotlight.
At the MIPIM conference in Cannes last week, Callcutt used his speech as outgoing Crest Nicholson vice-chairman to outline his vision for the future of the built environment. He said that architects and developers had been given a free rein in towns and cities, noting: "They have been given too much sway to express their individuality."
He said there should be more design codes and that local authorities should have more powers to turn down poor designs.
"I would give local authorities much more power than they have but they should make more responsible decisions," he said.
Callcutt told Building that delivering high quality was the key issue. "The big issues in the in-tray are delivering volume, quality and environmental standards. Delivering those three will be a formidable challenge."
He added: "I hope that the housebuilding industry will see this as a further step by government to engage with them positively."
Callcutt's enthusiasm for the sustainability agenda has distinguished Crest in recent years from many other housebuilders.
He said: "David Higgins is a hard act to follow, but John Callcutt is a good guy who should do well. Like many of us in the industry, he takes urban regeneration and planning issues very seriously and will be able to bring good, practical front-line experience that should help EP achieve its agenda."
Alan Cherry, Countryside Properties chairman, said: "It's a very good appointment and encouraging that they have chosen somebody from the development industry. John has a very good track record in development and understands the difficulties faced by developers."
Richard Clark, National Housing Federation chairman, said: "We have built a number of schemes with Crest and it has a commitment to quality and regeneration. John is a wide thinker on development and he is sympathetic to the pressures that housing associations face."
And Nigel Smith, RICS regeneration policy panel chair, said: "It's a very good move because he is somebody from mainstream business. As a developer he has torn up the pattern book and moved into much more interesting schemes."
The appointment of a senior housebuilding figure to the top job at EP has been interpreted in some quarters as a sign that the government will merge it with the Housing Corporation as part of Brown's review of development agencies. This speculation has been fuelled by the time it has taken EP to find a successor for David Higgins after his departure to head the Olympic Delivery Authority. It also reinforces EP's growing role as an agency for delivering housing.