Nicky Gavron calls for innovations and higher density in a stinging attack on architects.
Deputy London mayor Nicky Gavron has attacked architects for a lack of innovation in housing design in the capital.

Her broadside is another blow to the industry coming after London mayor Ken Livingstone's comment that future housing schemes must set aside 50% of developments for affordable accommodation.

Gavron, speaking at an Urban Design Group's conference in London last Friday, called for new ideas in residential developments.

She said: "We must raise the density of housing in London but at the moment there aren't any new ideas going into housing.

"Architects aren't necessarily good at urban design so I am calling on you all to think about the possibility of multifunctional shared living spaces." In a speech last May, construction minister Nick Raynsford criticised the lack of imagination shown in residential developments. He described inner city estate-type housing as "tawdry little boxes".

David Birkbeck, director of housing designers body Architects in Housing, rejected Gavron's criticism. He said the deputy mayor was out of touch, and claimed that designers were innovative. He said: "She is right if she is talking about the 1980s – and that is probably the last time she looked at housing."

Birkbeck praised the high density Howarth Tomkins-designed residential scheme at Coin Street in Waterloo, south London, which is being built by Mansell. He described this as a brilliant example of good urban planning.

He added: "If architects cannot design houses then who can?"

Gavron also outlined proposals for the GLA's Spatial Development Strategy, which aims to halt the population decline in the suburbs and solve transport problems and housing shortages.

The SDS, which will be put out to consultation in the new year, will call for development outside central London in areas such as Tottenham or Tower Hamlets. It plans to integrate central and outer London with an orbital rail network, which could involve extensions to the Docklands Light Railway and the development of Thameslink 2000. Gavron said: "The SDS means that after decades of decentralisation, London planning is going to recentralise."

Gavron also called for urban designers to give the streets back to London's pedestrians by reducing traffic.

Stressing the need for more investment in buses, she said: "I want to see bendy buses, guided buses and tram-like vehicles. There will also be a need for bus interchanges."

Some conference delegates believed London boroughs would object to this level of intervention from the GLA but Gavron said she believed that good relationships would be created.