Talking to Horticulture Week, Landscape Institute (LI) president Merrick Denton-Thompson said the concern expressed by Government over the failure to meet housing needs was to be welcomed.
He said the "emphasis on good design which is mentioned throughout and the emphasis on local character" in the Housing White Paper were both "excellent". However he sounded a note of warning about the focus on building new housing without putting it into a landscape context.
"I haven’t found any reference to landscape and I think we would be right in saying that the landscape framework to new housing is of enormous public interest and concern and the setting and investment into landscape is absolutely crucial. The public sector had haemorrhaged landscape skills and the landscape profession. It has lost 75% of its landscape professionals internally advising the planning system."
He pointed to clause 1.47 of the white paper which pledges "new funding to boost the capacity and capability of local authorities", which have been heavily hit by austerity funding cuts.
"We will be responding to the white paper and we will put a special interest on that boost being about spaces that are important to us all. The quality of the landscape is not just making it acceptable to the neighbours, it’s about creating homes not housing. It’s about where children will be growing up, where we can make a difference to climate change, to biodiversity, to food growing. We must have authorities with the right landscape skills to drive up the quality of our new housing."
Denton-Thompson said the push for much-needed development provided an opportunity to create spaces which will significantly benefit the health and well-being of the nation, and that it was of "vital importance" that local authorities had the right skills.
He emphasised the need for a holistic approach to development, saying neighbourhood and local plans were often drawn in too much of a restrictive geographical area in terms of resistance to climate change.
"We would politely point out that there should be a greater emphasis on multifunctional green infrastructure in the interests in health and well-being of the nation and the resilience to climate change. There has got to be an emphasis on sustainability.
"We think that sustainable drainage (SuDS) in an urban context and rural land management shouldn’t be seen in isolation of the context that they are in. We’ve also got to be very alert to water quality.
"New housing has got to be planned in association with the wider context. We also need to understand cultural differences. The whole success of new housing depends entirely on quality of design and open spaces associated with it. These are the shared spaces."