Office for Place set to Stoke levelling-up efforts

Potteries-based arm’s-length body will ensure good design is at the heart of new housing developments, says Michael Gove
Source: Alamy

By Tim Gibson

25 Jul 2023

Levelling up secretary Michael Gove has announced that Stoke-on-Trent will be home to DLUHC's new arm’s-length body tasked with ensuring housing developments match local character and adhere to the best design principles.

The Office for Place will be chaired by urbanist Nicholas Boys Smith, who writes about the history of towns and cities and founded the social enterprise Create Streets.

In a statement, Boys Smith said: “The Office for Place is moving from being a small team within DLUHC to a formal and legally constituted arm’s-length body. I am personally delighted to have been asked to become interim chair of the new organisation.”

By locating the new body in Stoke-on-Trent, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is putting its own policies into practice. Boys Smith remarked that the Potteries city has a vision "for regenerative development, re-stitching the city, moving from streets as gyratories to streets as enjoyable places to be, attracting jobs and taking advantage of the legacy of [its] proud industrial heritage”.

Boys Smith’s comments echoed a speech by Gove setting out the government’s housing strategy on Monday.

Gove said the Office for Place would be a “powerful new body” that would “drive building beautifully”.

He said the organisation would “ensure that new places are created in accordance with the very best design principles” and delivered “place making and not just house building”.

The levelling-up secretary also announced that it would be easier to secure planning permission in urban areas, with 20 cities, mainly in the North and Midlands, targeted for regeneration.

Gove announced that a team of expert planners would be dispatched from the department to facilitate developments. Their first focus will be Cambridge, which the government wants to “supercharge” as “Europe’s science capital”.

The housing strategy will be delivered in consultation with local authorities, city mayors, social enterprises, and community groups. Gove said it will also involve cooperation across central government.

He said DLUHC would work with the Department for Transport to “unlock” land currently earmarked for transport projects. He said cabinet secretary Simon Case would visit Barrow, in Cumbria, “with an elite civil service team”, to develop opportunities for the city’s regeneration.

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