Clare San Martin’s perspective on the Housing Design Audit for England.
A national housing audit conducted by University College London for the Place-Alliance and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), launched today. The audit reveals that 75% of new housing development should not have gone ahead due to ‘mediocre’ or ‘poor’ design. Here, Clare San Martin of JTP and one of the Housing Design Audit assessors, highlights her thoughts on the implications of the report.
Housing Design Audit should embolden communities and planning authorities to
insist on good design as much needed homes are delivered across the country.
The audit dispels the myth that high-quality design can only be delivered in
high value areas such as London and the South East. Examples of well-designed
new neighbourhoods in less affluent areas demonstrate what can be done and what
must be done if the country’s economic divide is to be tackled.
a pressing need to address regional inequality, and preventing poor design being
continually inflicted on poor areas must be part of the solution. A shocking
number of new neighbourhoods across the country were evaluated as having ‘poor’
or ‘mediocre’ design but a much higher proportion of poor design was found in
the less affluent areas of the East Midlands and South West.
makes the interesting point that the cost factors separating ‘good’ from ‘poor’
design are a relatively small proportion of the total development value and
that lower value locations with lower land values often provide a better return
on investment. It recommends commissioning and publishing research on the
economics of housing design to inform design decision making.
of ‘good’ design in less affluent areas tend to be part of larger
regeneration schemes led by public/private partnerships. The audit suggests
that greater local authority leadership could be beneficial in these areas.
highlights important issues to be addressed including sustainable phasing of
new developments, blight caused by over-engineered highway infrastructure,
poorly integrated car parking, unfriendly environments for pedestrians, the
failure to respond to local character and the usual problem of how to deal
elegantly with bins.
One recommendation I would particularly like to see taken
forward is for highway authorities to adopt a ‘place first’ approach and take
responsibility for creating attractive streets and spaces that encourage
sociability rather than simply delivering road infrastructure. To facilitate
the creation of good streets, the audit advocates national guidance on
reasonable charges for adopting street trees, swales and other landscape
features which are all too often omitted due to high charges but are key to
creating great streets and neighbourhoods.
audit recommends improving the design quality of schemes through greater use of
Design Review Panels and local Design Codes, which I wholeheartedly support. It
also emphasises the role of the Government’s National Design Guide in helping
planning officers and committees tasked with evaluating design quality by
providing an approved benchmark. With these aids, plus the publication of the
National Design Code early in 2020, there is hope that poorly designed
neighbourhoods will not be granted planning approval in the future.
quality bar be raised across all regions in the future? It certainly needs to
The full report can be found here.