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Architects left out of attempts to cut down crime by design

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Architects have warned that they are being left out of police research into cutting crime through better design on housing estates.

Police research was revealed at a Metropolitan Police conference last week which showed that crime on housing estates is halved if simple security measures costing less than £300 per house are applied by designers.

The Secured By Design initiative is backed by the police, the Housing Corporation and the Welsh Assembly. Housing developments which have taken design measures to cut crime are awarded an SBD seal of approval.

But architects said they are not being sufficiently consulted. 'I'm very anxious that more feedback is needed for architects about buildings in use which are SBD,' said David Parkes, director at housing specialist,

PRP Architects. 'I'd like to make a plea to police and academics to involve architects more. Researchers should join design teams on projects during briefing and scheme design and then follow up security performance after completion and occupation.'

Research covering 9000 houses in Gwent and 50 estates in West Yorkshire showed that architects and builders can slash the numbers of burglaries and car crimes if they consult police on the layout of housing prior to design. Researchers said that careful road and path layout, strong locks, security lighting and 1.8m fencing around properties are the key measures to stop crime.

But despite the evidence in support of SBD, police and academics fear that the Home Office will not back the initiative. The minister of state for crime prevention, Charles Clarke MP, is due to make a speech in Huddersfield today focusing on the research by West Yorkshire police.

'The Home Office is reluctant to back the initiative on the limited research available, but we will be releasing a paper with greater nationwide research,' a government official said. In 1998 there were 1.6 million burglaries and it is estimated that each burglary costs the government £1500.

Director of the Space Syntax Laboratory at the Bartlett School of Architecture, Professor Bill Hillier, urged caution over the two studies: 'This is just the beginning of the story on SBD. We do not understand it all and social factors can always overwhelm attempts to design out crime,' he said.

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