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Callcutt report demands more design review panels

The Callcutt Review of Housebuilding Delivery, published today (22 November), has called for the creation of a nationwide network of independent design review bodies.

John Callcutt, the report’s author and former head of Crest Nicholson and English Partnerships, said the independent inspectors would influence the fate of ‘all but the very smallest projects – from residential to gigantic projects’.

The recommendation is one of 37 made in the review, which was commissioned in 2006 by then communities secretary Ruth Kelly to examine how the government could achieve the delivery of 240,000 homes a year.

Callcutt, who handed the report to minister for housing and planning Yvette Cooper, said the formation of design review panels would ‘send shockwaves through the industry’.

Callcutt confirmed he had approached the RIBA, the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and CABE to discuss his plans.

‘Whether this is a CABE extension – a network of beefed-up and better resourced regional design bodies – is for future debate,’ Callcutt said.

RIBA president Sunand Prasad said the institute welcomed the initiative, and added: ‘We suggest that developers engaging with design review could be incentivised by a presumption in favour of development where they had taken a scheme to review and, if necessary, heeded its advice.’

Asked when he thought the design review panels would be up and running, Callcutt said: ‘Already there are too many ugly sub-standard estates around our cities, and the sooner we improve the quality, the better. It can’t happen too quickly.’

Matt Bell, director of campaigns and education at CABE, which has around 20 design review advisers and carries out 350 reviews a year, said: ‘As the statutory body charged with delivering it, we are very open to a conversation about how design review can be extended.’

Among the recommendations in the report – which concludes that the UK housebuilding industry is capable of delivering the government’s housing targets, providing enough land is made available – is a call for local authorities to form partnerships with developers at the earliest stage.

See Max Thompson's interview with John Callcutt

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