The vast majority of new housing developments should not have been built due to their shoddy design, according to an audit by the Bartlett School of Planning
Damage is being done to the environment and to residents’ health and quality of life through some of the poor schemes being built, the report says.
The study looked at 140 developments across England built since 2007 and found that 20 per cent of developments should have been rejected outright by planning authorities.
A further 54 per cent, the report adds, should have been rejected at planning and only built if the developer came back with ‘significant improvements’ in the design.
The most common problem identified was an excess of tarmac or brick paving, due to poorly planned roads and a poor integration of bins and car parking.
The audit also threw up concerns about limited concern with place-making, noting that ‘housing units are frequently of an obviously standard type, with little attempt to create something distinctive’.
And it said that new developments were failing to respond to environmental problems, with ‘significant numbers’ of schemes falling below the minimum energy efficiency requirements.
regional split diagram (2)
Even when homes are, supposedly, meeting the requirements there is gap between the energy efficiency designed and the actual performance of homes, the report claims.
Developments also frequently ‘fail to deliver’ on a green or bio-diverse landscape.
Developers which had at least one of their schemes included in the list of 140 reviewed include Persimmon, Bellway, Taylor Wimpey and Crest Nicholson.
Tom Fyans, campaigns and policy director at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, which co-commissioned the audit, said: ‘This research is utterly damning of larger housebuilders.’
He added: ‘The government has presided over a decade of disastrous housing design and must raise standards immediately.’
As well as the CPRE, the audit was paid for by the Place Alliance and the Laidlaw Scholarship Program.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: ‘We expect developers to make sure new homes are well-designed, and our new national design guide sets out how beautiful places can be achieved in practice – ensuring slap-dash proposals don’t get built.’
‘There is no excuse for shoddy design and our revised planning rulebook ensures councils already have the power to refuse planning applications on this basis.’
The spokesperson declined to comment on the issue of poorly designed schemes getting consent on planning appeal after local authorities have rejected them.
The audit identified this as a problem, suggested it ‘sends a message that design quality doesn’t matter’ and ‘fatally undermines the government’s own policy on design’.
Last week a 1,524-home scheme in east London was handed consent by housing secretary Robert Jenrick, despite the objection of the national planning inspector and local planning authorities on design grounds.
Other key findings in the housing audit
- Better-designed schemes achieve higher sales values. Less affluent communities are 10 times more likely to be living in poorly designed homes
- The distribution of good and poor-quality housing schemes is patchy, with examples of each in every region. However, Greater London was the best-performing region, while the East Midlands and South West were the worst
- The quality of design by large housebuilders varies within, as well as in between, companies. Developers often have some schemes which score highly on the design audit, and others which score poorly
- Higher-density schemes tend to be better-designed. The best schemes averaged 56 dwellings per hectare, while the worst averaged 32 dwellings per hectare – which, by coincidence, is the national average