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Architectural bulletin - February 2020

Published: Tuesday, 25th February 2020

Housing Secretary clamps down on shoddy housebuilders, LABC Regional Building Excellence Awards, Opinion: Why putting heritage at the back of your list could be criminal for future generations,


The Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has this week confirmed the introduction of a New Homes Ombudsman to protect the rights of homebuyers of new build properties.

Now, with support from the New Homes Ombudsman, homebuyers will be supported in tackling issues with their newly built home, such as poor brick work or faulty wiring. Developers delivering below standard homes can face being banned from building or instructed to compensate as a result of inadequate building work.

When announcing the new process, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has said: “It’s completely unacceptable that so many people struggle to get answers when they find issues with their dream new home. That’s why the Ombudsman will stop rogue developers getting away with shoddy building work and raise the game of housebuilders across the sector.  Homebuyers will be able to access help when they need it, so disputes can be resolved faster and people can get the compensation they deserve.”

The announcement comes as part of a series of new policies to be introduced by the government to ensure high standards across the building sector, including the Help to Buy scheme.

For more information visit GOV.UK


Entries for the 2020 awards are now open!

The LABC Regional Building Excellence Awards are the largest business to business awards in the UK.

LABCs network covers all local authorities in England and Wales and is split into 12 regions, each of which holds their own regional awards.

Use the list below to find your region's web page which includes deadline dates and more information about each awards ceremony. If you're unsure which LABC region applies to your project you can easily find out by entering the postcode of the project into our find council by postcode search. For best local builder, construction professional of the year and partnership categories, use the local authority you have a relationship with.

Who can enter and what's the process?

Building control surveyors, builders, architects, designers and anyone else involved in a construction project where building control was provided by a local authority team can submit an entry to the relevant region, these are then reviewed and shortlisted by a panel of judges.

Shortlisted entries will be invited to attend the regional awards, and winners will be invited to attend the Grand Finals, which are held in London and attract over 800 guests.

Discover your deadline date below, or if you already know it you'll be able to start your award nomination soon. (NB, it's a 2-stage process and the entry form is hosted on a specialist submissions website called Submittable.)

Regional awards

Find out details about your region by clicking on the relevant link:


The pressure to develop puts heritage under threat. Planners have an important part to play in ensuring new development respects the historic fabric of our environments, says Kevin Balch

Heritage assets such as listed buildings and conservation areas should be treated as something to be prized by the whole community, but sadly, they are at risk from a lack of appreciation and expertise as the system is under increasing pressure to facilitate development.

As architects accredited in conservation, we play an essential role in safeguarding our built heritage, helping buildings extend their life and enhancing their value. We understand how these buildings function and how they should be kept or renovated for their future use.

Our specialist heritage team is engaged by organisations like the National Trust in a design management role to deliver complex briefs with large consultant teams - a natural approach for working with listed buildings, townscapes and historic structures.

We aim to understand and define the client’s values first and then assemble the project team to deliver them. Sometimes the project brief extends and changes over a period of time. At the American Museum in Bath, we worked with the team for two decades, with a number of projects phased to suit funding and delivery constraints.

Unfortunately, we see many enquiries reaching us once the project is quite far advanced. Key decisions have already been made and clients are asking for advice retrospectively, which makes getting what you really want a far harder hill to climb.

The design delivery stages, technical, regulatory and commercial imperatives all put pressure on the successful delivery of a client’s vision. The constraints that come with working in the heritage field are frequently misunderstood or managed poorly.

And this can have a hugely detrimental effect. Not having a holistic approach to design, heritage and delivery almost always ends in project delays, frustrated clients and cost increases. In extreme cases, heavy fines can be imposed following unauthorised work to a listed building, which is a criminal offence. It’s often misunderstood that all parts of a listed structure and its setting have equal protection by the law, irrespective of the listing description or the age of the fabric.

There is more that can and should be done nationally, including investing in developing and promoting the accreditation of architects and others with specialist knowledge. At a local level, councils should have the skills and capacity to properly understand, manage and enhance the value of their historic buildings for their communities.

It’s about bringing creativity, insight and leadership to a process that is all too often a financially-driven view of the world based on common development assumptions, rather than understanding the value that heritage can bring to enriching our environment.

Understanding heritage, and getting this right in the first instance, is key if we are to deliver value to clients and quality in our historic buildings. And with the right care and attention, we can face a brighter future by minimising waste and reusing existing buildings to their full potential.

Published by The Planner, authored by Kevin Balch
Kevin Balch is associate, project design director at Nash Partnership