Caroline Flint MP

The Rt Hon Caroline Flint MP

Minister of State

Minister for Housing, attending Cabinet (January - October 2008)

Housing design awards 2008

Date of speech 3 July 2008
Location Banqueting Hall, London

Transcript of the speech as delivered.

It's a great privilege to have this chance to celebrate some outstanding achievements.

And of course, this year, the department has a personal connection with the winner of winners. I know that Hazel, with her links to the area, is delighted that Chimney Pot Park has been singled out for recognition. I can, however, assure you that there was no favouritism in making this decision.

The original street will be familiar to millions from the credits to Coronation Street. But what has been done here is truly inspiring, and I'm sure the new re-invented street will become equally as iconic in the area as the original Corrie homes. 

I want to congratulate all of the winners here today - for the partnership between planners, architects, developers and local communities which has delivered such incredible results. 

What you've achieved is testament to the creativity and imagination which runs through the best of British industry.  

These awards have become a real fixture in the calendar, but today is particularly special. We're taking this opportunity to look back and single out some of the landmark developments of the past sixty years since these awards were established. 

They were set up by Nye Bevan, who not only presided over the reconstruction of our housing after the Second World War, but also managed to find some time to set up the NHS.
But of course, this was a really sensible response to the strong links between poverty, poor housing and poor health - a problem that sadly is still in evidence today. 

Bevan was determined to do everything he could to break this link. 

His objective was not just to solve the massive housing shortage, but to create homes that people would be proud to live in. 

For Bevan, it wasn't enough to put a roof over people's head - housing should also reflect people's dignity and individuality, their desire for a real home.  As he said:

"There is a temptation to cut standards, to reduce size, to eliminate planning and design...but this would be a crime for which we, our children and grandchildren would pay for 50 years to come; it is a crime we must not commit".

Thanks to Bevan's early initiative, public housing from that era did set new standards and made an incredible difference to people's lives. One of the historic winners being recognised today reminds us of that. 

Highworth Cottages in Hampshire, were among the houses built to Bevan's vision in the early 1950's. 

As we have already heard, Mrs Lay whose children are here today has lived there for well over fifty years - proof that these homes were really built for life. 

Today, we face very similar challenges, with an equally urgent need for major housebuilding. But we have to be as uncompromising as Bevan. 

We cannot sacrifice quality in the pursuit of quantity. There is no sense in creating designs that quickly date and developments which will be deserted because no one wants to live in them.

And if they could build to that high standard with all the constraints of post-war austerity, we can do so much more today, with material resources and technology undreamt of in the early 50s. 

So how can we ensure that the homes we build today endure in the way that Mrs Lay's house has? What exactly does quality design mean today in the 21st century - when we have challenges like climate change that Bevan couldn't even have imagined?

It's much more than having granite worktops in the kitchen, runway lighting in the hall and decking out in the garden.

It means building homes which are flexible and adaptable, which can change as the family within it changes, suitable for families with active toddlers, teenagers or aging grandparents. 

They should be homes resilient to the effects of climate change, built to the highest possible environmental standards. Where sustainability isn't just the latest buzz word but a genuine guiding principle.   

And most importantly of all, today's homes should be built not as individual units and blocks but as part of the community, respectful of the unique local identity and character. 

This is what we should all expect and demand. 

Whether in a public body, a private developer, or a local authority, we should all be striving for the very best. We should all be absolutely committed to making sure the standard we see here today becomes the norm. 

I want to conclude by thanking all the partners - the NHBC, RIBA, the RTPI, English Partnerships, the Housing Corporation and CABE - not just for their work to make these awards happen, but for all the work they do to champion excellence in design.

And I want once again to congratulate all the winners - whether for the achievements of the past year, or for their impact over several decades. 

Thank you very much.

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