Bellway comes bottom of Cabe's list which judges the quality of housing designs among the top ten housebuilders

Out of Britain’s top 10 volume housebuilders, Bellway Homes is the company with the poorest designed schemes and Berkeley Group is the company with the best, according to an audit by Cabe

This week, the architecture watchdog published its third and final regional mid-market housing design audit, covering the east and west Midlands and the South-west.

Building’s analysis of the 300 schemes audited by Cabe over the past three years shows that out of the top 10 housebuilders, Bellway scored the lowest average (51.5%), closely followed by George Wimpey, which had 52% across 29 schemes.

The best housebuilder was Berkeley, which scored an average of 70.7%. The second best was Redrow Homes, which has appointed design champions in each of its regional divisions.

Barratt, which announced this week that it is buying fourth-placed Wilson Bowden, came third from bottom with a score of 54.8% across 40 schemes. None of Crest Nicholson’s schemes were audited by Cabe.

Privately owned Countryside Properties scored an average of 81% across three schemes, including its Greenwich Millennium Village joint venture with Taylor Woodrow, which scored 87% – higher any other scheme.

Across the country, the audit shows that only 18% of developments were rated as “good” (70% or higher) or “very good” (80% or higher) and 29% of developments were “poor” (50% or lower).

“The quality of a substantial minority of developments is so low that they should not have been given planning permission,” the document says. “The task is not one of doubling the number of exemplar schemes, but eradicating the unacceptable.”

The design quality of housing in the three most recently surveyed regions is “overwhelmingly disappointing”, says the report, which shows that the proportion of poor schemes is higher in the two Midlands regions than elsewhere in the country.

David Pretty, the recently-retired Barratt chief executive, said he was surprised it had not performed better in Cabe’s audit given the awards it had won recently.

David Birkbeck, the director of Design for Homes, pointed to contrasts between the performance of Wimpey and Taylor Woodrow.

“They have both made standardisation a priority but Wimpey’s house types don’t have even basic Urban Design manners whereas Taylor Woodrow’s portfolio types will cluster neatly. Wimpey also got rid of its centralised design services so there was nobody at head office to stop it getting ugly.”

A Bellway spokesman said: “As house builders we must balance the need for good design against the local contexts in which we are working and affordability parameters.”
Do you think Cabe’s view that housing design is “overwhelmingly disappointing” is fair? Email us with your view at