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HCA strategist reveals large scale opportunities for architects

HCA’s Kevin McGeough has called on architects to help the HCA meet its target to release land for 100,000 new homes by 2015

Speaking at the AJ100 breakfast club this morning (7 June), the agency’s senior strategy manager promised ‘real opportunities’ for architects to get involved in large schemes of a scale not seen since the new town developments of the post-war era.

Praising the UK’s ‘rich pedigree’ of innovative masterplanning – including Edinburgh new town and the Garden Cities movement – McGeough said he was ‘disappointed’ fewer architects were engaged in similar size projects today.

He said: ‘There is real potential for architects to get in that masterplanning scale right down to the individual homes in an era where we will be having large scale schemes.’

The first batch of major developments benefiting from the HCA’s £225 million Large Scale Sites fund include 5,500 homes at Sherford near Plymouth, 6,300 homes in Cranbrook, 6,000 homes in Milton Keynes and up to 10,000 residential units in Wokingham.

Commenting on the schemes, McGeough said: ‘They [developers] really need architects to come in here and make sure there are really good places to live and not just housing sites.’

The HCA holds 9,400 hectares of land and has been tasked with helping the government release sites for 100,000 new homes by 2015.

McGeough said the agency was doing ‘anything we can’ to create flexible opportunities for architect and developers to create schemes using these assets.

He said: ‘What we are trying to do is make sure that land is visible to you so you know where it is, know how to access it and what is expected of it.’

He said the HCA’s latest land disposal strategy – set to be revealed in the coming weeks – will reveal ‘where all the sites are, when they are going to be released, what we are looking for and what the key issues are.’

Around 71 per cent of the agency’s land has been inherited from new towns and former development corporations including a portfolio of ‘fantastic locations’ such as leafy hospital sites ‘you would like to get your hands on’ McGeough said.

Around 20 per cent of the pot is drawn from the defunct regional development agencies’ land holdings while the remaining nine per cent is more ‘difficult’ to develop former coalfields.

Discussing regeneration, McGeough admitted agency budgets had been reduced – from £1.4 billion in 2011 to £23 million this year – but said: ‘We are starting to work with cities around the country to do city deals and to think more cleverly about their assets about how they can do regeneration in a different form and not just rely on public funding.’

He added: ‘There is still quite a lot of good public funding out there [which is] really targeted at where we can make the most impact.’

He said both clients and architects would have to ‘work harder’ because while the agency had less money it was still pitching for the same results.  ‘Most house builders and RSLs won’t be able to give us the quality and quantity we require and the without good architects helping them to get that message through.’

 Another key opportunity for the profession exists in designing housing for older people. Older consumers represent 60 per cent of the demand for housing but the market is failing to deliver bespoke products in sufficient quantities – he explained.

The HCA’s specialist housing fund is looking to invest £240 million in the sector between 2013 and 2018.

‘If you want to motivate people to move from existing stock you have to do it in a positive way,’ McGeough said. ‘Design is integral to how the concept works. You will only get a quality project if you get the good designers to make it interesting.’

The event was sponsored by Bespoke Careers, Hoare Lea, Miele, Philips and Schueco.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Yasmin Shariff

    Yes we need more homes, lots of them and urgently but this call seems like a cancerous growth of 'urban' extensions. If we upgrade our existing settlements we will not have to spend a fortune on infrastructure and any development fund can be spent on social cohesion projects. What we don't need is coffins for the living dead where housing is provided with plush bathrooms and little social connection. Great for accessing hearses but bereft of places to meet and greet, learn, waltz and work.

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