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Government signals a new era of dense quality housing

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Two government initiatives - one promised and one delivered last week - promise to improve both the quality and density of housing in the uk, mirroring key requirements of the Urban Task Force.

Housing minister Nick Raynsford told the Housebuilders Federation last week that new planning guidance to be published 'soon' will reinforce a message to 'create better designed places where people will want to live'.

'We will make it clear that planning authorities should promote developments that bring together environmental, transport and planning best practice to create places with their own distinct identity and in harmony with the local environment,' he said. 'We are not going to beat about the bush. When applying for planning permission, housebuilders will have to demonstrate to local planning authorities how they have taken the need for good design into account.'

Raynsford added that good design could lessen crime, create a sense of community and 'make good places and satisfied people'.

The second initiative is in the form of a report by Llewelyn Davies for London Planning Advisory Committee and the Government Office for London which was first revealed in the aj almost a year ago (aj 25.2.99). The report, called Sustainable Residential Quality - Exploring the Housing Potential for Large Sites, says that large housing schemes with good public- transport links could be developed at higher densities if the needs of people are put before cars and better design principles applied. It claims that densities of 435 homes or 1100 habitable rooms per hectare (hrph) can be achieved in apartment blocks in town centres; terraced houses or flats near public transport can go to 30 to 275 homes per hectare (150- 700 hrph) and even remote suburban sites can take houses and gardens at between 30-65 homes per hectare (150-700 hrph), all 'without compromising quality'. The report also warns that developers need to invest more in design, rely less on standard types, and allow designers to respond more to individual sites, whereas Unitary Development Plans need to give greater emphasis to design, with planning briefs and design statements required as part of submissions for planning permission.

Raynsford said of the report's findings: 'Too often modern houses are built in ways which are profligate with land. High-quality modern homes, which take up less land, will benefit us all.'

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