Construction minister Nick Raynsford has attacked the quality of housing estates and urged housebuilders to improve design and increase density in urban redevelopments.
Speaking at Monday’s launch of the DETR’s new urban design guide, Raynsford pointed to several examples of what he called “bad design”, including the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark, London.
Raynsford said the guide, which sets out design principles such as character, scale, appearance and diversity, would not tie urban developments to particular architectural styles. He said: “We are not saying you have got to do it one way or another. It’s not one architectural style.“In recent years, there have been very, very poor quality developments, which have tawdry little boxes put together with no sense or feel for the area. It’s a cause of shame and disappointment.
“It cannot be right that you have developments with 23 dwellings or fewer per hectare. There are very high-quality developments that have densities of 30-40 per hectare which people are very happy to live in. ”He added: “Quality is fundamental. I would like to see housebuilders taking that to heart.”
Raynsford’s criticism was echoed by Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment chairman Stuart Lipton, who said that housing estate developers too often used the lowest common denominator as the basis for the design.
There have been very, very poor developments. It’s a cause of shame
Lipton said: “Housebuilders believe that the consumers want these shoe-boxes. But there are other aspects, such as light, space and uplifting design, that should be taken into consideration.”
The CABE chairman said the private sector should follow the lead of housing associations such as the Peabody Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust when producing housing developments.
He said: “Peabody and Rowntree lead the pack in housing design and innovation. They are using good architects and modern methods and are creating sustainable developments. The challenge for the private sector is to keep up with them.”
The House Builders’ Federation welcomed Raynsford’s words, but warned that his concept of design and density was based on a London model and would not necessarily translate to the rest of the UK.
Good examples of urban developments cited by both Raynsford and Lipton were the Poundbury model village in Dorset, and urban regeneration schemes such as Brindleyplace in Birmingham.