2nd July 2024

A Civic manifesto for the built environment of tomorrow


An election on the horizon is an opportunity to shake up business as usual. The prevailing modes of thinking and politicking are preventing us from achieving a built environment that delivers prosperity, security, community and good quality of life for all. 

We put our civil, structural, transport and ground engineering heads together to produce some suggestions for whichever incoming Prime Minister ends up setting to work on delivering their promises of national renewal after 4th July.

A housing programme for the needs of today (and tomorrow)

This is the obvious one. The quantum of new housing needs to increase significantly in many parts of the country — but we mustn’t lurch to volume at any cost. Instead, we must focus on quality, community making and sustainable living, and not be nostalgic for housing typologies of the past. The housing we need today will not look the same as the housing of 200 years ago. The best of the public and private sectors should work together to enable, procure and deliver the homes. We have a significant stock of buildings across the UK which can and should be retrofitted.

Devolving powers to empower our regions

For decision making and capital to go to the regional city regions in order to invest in health, transport, and green infrastructure. This requires planning and spending commitments extending much longer than five year government terms, typically 20-30 years. City regions should be properly funded, and should lead on the procurement and delivery of these infrastructure schemes, harnessing the strengths of the private sector through new procurement methods that are more inclusive of the creativity and skills that are prevalent in the SME sector. This could be achieved, in part, through Civic’s collaborative EcoBIDs idea.

Make the Carbon Emissions Bill law

The bill, which had its first reading in 2022, has been stuck in the House of Commons with very little attention since. Once reviewed to ensure it’s fit for the next decade, this bill would see Whole Life Carbon regulated through the Building Regulations (Part Z), which is essential to bringing about the meaningful change that is needed to meet the UK’s Net Zero 2050 commitment. 

Introduce VAT relief on retrofit projects

New build projects are zero-rated for VAT, while most refurbishments and retrofits are still subject to the standard rate of 20%. Those wanting to pursue retrofit projects are unfairly penalised by and for others with budget sheets to balance, and new build often comes out as the most cost efficient option. VAT relief on retrofit projects should incentivise more in the industry to reuse and revitalise the building stock we already have.

Implement Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Act for SuDS

UK cities are getting warmer and wetter. Viable insurance due to flooding risk is negatively impacting the market. Schedule 3 provides a framework for the approval and adoption of drainage systems and acts as an approving body and national standards on the design, construction, operation and maintenance of SuDS. It’s already legislation in Wales, and we need it here to allow these innovative but simple design decisions to be more widely rolled out in other towns and cities that are increasingly under threat of severe weather like flash flooding. 

Commission Manual for Streets 3 for fairer public realm

There is an ongoing battle for space and changes to streets. Decisions are frequently made in an uncoordinated way and outcomes are often pro-motorist and poor for those walking, wheeling or cycling. Manual for Streets 3 needs to be commissioned to provide guidance on how to design, construct, adopt and maintain new and existing residential streets in a holistic and sustainable manner.

A Civic manifesto for the built environment of tomorrow