St Helens has ‘best trained officers in country’

St Helens Council is one of the first in the country to train all its development control officers to use Building for Life, the national standard for well-designed homes and neighbourhoods.

Building for Life is an initiative led by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment and the Home Builders Federation. The course promotes functional, attractive and sustainable housing.

The North West is on target to meet Cabe's one-assessor-to-every-authority target, but St Helens has taken things a stage further by training all eight of its development control officers and two policy officers, more than any other English council.

Places Matter!, the North West's publicly-funded architecture centre, provided the training to St Helens. The centre has offered the same opportunity for training and subsequent accreditation to every North West local authority as part of its continuing commitment to good design.

Those who successfully complete the training become accredited assessors, which allows them to judge new housing schemes against 20 criteria that cover character, environmental performance, design and construction.

Local authorities are encouraged through Building for Life to act consistently when assessing design quality and making recommendations for planning decisions.

Matt Bell, director of education and external affairs at Cabe, said: "With an impressive ten Building for Life accredited assessors, St Helens is now equipped to provide a confident and well informed response to developers about new schemes. They will be able to test criteria like access to community facilities and public transport, whether the pedestrian routes feel safe, and whether the place will have a distinct character."

Cllr Andy Bowden, cabinet member for urban regeneration and housing at St Helens, said: "It's a real feather in the cap for St Helens. Building for Life training means the team will be able to apply the same high standards to every proposed development in the borough."

Annie Atkins, Places Matter! programme director, said: "The take-up of Building for Life training in the North West has been impressive. Local authorities in the region are clearly committed to creating good quality homes. Training and accreditation in Building for Life are a major step forward in achieving this and St Helens are to be congratulated for ensuring their officers have the skills in place to deliver excellent homes."

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