Volume housebuilders including Barratt Homes, the Berkeley Group and Fairclough Homes are considering plans to inject up to £1 billion into architect-designed housing in inner-city London.
The mass-market companies, second, fifth and seventeenth largest in the UK by turnover, are being courted by a firm of property advisers, Wright & Partners. It is planning to match modern architects to about five sites in the capital ranging in size from 4ha to 12ha; thousands of units are likely to be built.
'Rather than building off-the-shelf housing, the 'Dorchesters' and the 'Salisburys', we are trying to do something different with this, ' said Wright's regeneration director Noel Ashton. 'There are numerous examples of successful terrace designs from the nineteenth century.
We believe that the likely scale of urban development over the next few years will be such as to demand the pursuit of these or better standards of design excellence.'
He said that the government's latest targets on building on brownfield sites and the work of the Urban Task Force have 'opened the minds' of volume housebuilders to architect-designed development'. The negotiations with the housebuilding giants are at a preliminary stage, but Wright & Partners is already calling for architects to make conceptual design proposals for 'an innovative but practical residential terrace for the new century'. Entries will be scrutinised by the public during a consultation exercise before a handful of architects are taken on to produce designs or masterplans for larger sites. Sites under consideration include Surrey Quays and the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark.
About 200 practices have already been approached, but Ashton said the net is widening. Architects should produce A2 drawings outlining design ideas. 'We want pretty pictures showing design presentations because what will persuade me will also have to persuade the public, ' he said.
Designs should be submitted by 1 November. Call 0207 493 4121 for details