CABE has supported calls by housebuilders to scrap minimum densities in housing schemes.

The architecture watchdog says in its response to the government's draft housing planning policy, PPS3, that the drive to increase density has resulted in "a detrimental impact on the quality and character of many developments in suburban and edge-of-settlement areas".

It notes: "We collected significant evidence of badly designed suburban intensification and new residential estates where houses and open space alike are squeezed in order to comply with the density minimum."

CABE, which was established as part of the government's response to Lord Rogers' Urban Task Force report which supported high density development, says the preponderance of small flats is undermining the creation of well designed, socially balanced communities.

Instead of a mandatory national minimum target of 30 dwellings per hectare, as outlined in PPS3, CABE said the government should let councils set their own benchmarks based on the constraints of individual sites.

John Stewart, director of economic affairs at the Home Builders Federation, gave a qualified welcome to CABE's remarks. He said: "We welcome CABE's acknowledgement of the need for more flexibility. However, it is essential that home builders are able to put the needs of buyers and communities first. CABE's primary concern still appears to be with the physical aspects of housing rather than people's needs."

Barry Munday, chairman of specialist housing architect PRP, said: "We certainly support CABE's view. If we push density too highly in the wrong places, we will end up with small and inflexible homes that are really only suited to young couples or singles."