‘The government has presided over a decade of disastrous housing design and must raise standards immediately’

New housing design, whether attractive or poor, impacts on us all

The design of new housing developments in England is overwhelmingly ‘mediocre’ or ‘poor’, with less affluent communities the worst affected, according to a national audit conducted by University College London for CPRE, the countryside charity, and the Place Alliance.
A housing design audit for England reveals that 75 per cent of new housing development should not have gone ahead due to ‘mediocre’ or ‘poor’ design.
The report, an audit of more than 140 housing developments built across England since 2007, found that one in five of these developments should have been refused planning permission as their poor design was contrary to advice given in the National Planning Policy Framework.
A further 54 per cent should not have been granted permission without significant improvements to their design having been made first.

The audit also found:
• Less affluent communities were 10 times more likely to get worse design, even though better design is affordable
• Low-scoring housing developments scored especially badly in terms of character and sense of place, with architecture that did not respond to the context in which it was located
• The worst reported aspects of design included developments dominated by access roads and the poor integration of storage, bins and car-parking, leading to unattractive and unfriendly environments with probable negative health and social implications
• Some gains had been made – schemes scored relatively highly for safety and security and were also typically successful at integrating a variety of sizes of house

Professor Matthew Carmona (The Bartlett School of Planning, UCL), chair of the Place Alliance, who led the research, said: “Research has consistently shown that high-quality design makes new residential developments more acceptable to local communities and delivers huge social, economic and environmental value to all, yet we are still failing in this regard across England.
“Planning authorities are under pressure to deliver new homes and are therefore prioritising numbers in the short term over the long-term negative impacts of bad design.
“At the same time, housebuilders have little incentive to improve when their designs continue to pass through the planning system. Some highways authorities, meanwhile, do not even recognise their role in creating a sense of place for communities.  
“Collectively, housebuilders, planning authorities and highways authorities need to significantly raise their game. This can’t come soon enough.”
Tom Fyans, campaigns and policy director at CPRE, the countryside charity, said: “The government has presided over a decade of disastrous housing design and must raise standards immediately.
“This research is utterly damning of larger housebuilders and their failure to build the homes our communities deserve.
“They must significantly raise their game if we are to create the sorts of places that future generations will feel proud to call home. It’s no wonder so many of our communities feel apprehensive towards new development when the design is so poor. That’s why significantly improving the quality of design is central to addressing the housing shortage.”

Recommendations from the research
The audit proposed a range of recommendations for the government, housebuilders and local government. Among these the research found strong benefits in designing at higher densities than is the norm.
The government should be more prescriptive in seeking less sprawling densities, as more compact developments tend to be designed more sensitively. It should require highways design that helps to create high-quality, characterful places.
Housebuilders need to drive greater ambition across the sector to advance a more ethical approach to the design of development that prioritises the long-term social well-being of their customers and the health of the environment at large.
Local authorities need to use proactive design codes – design parameters established for each site – and design review processes for all major housing schemes.
Local authorities also need to end the current disconnect between highways design and planning aspirations when it comes to new housing areas.
Schemes that do not meet minimum requirements should be refused on design grounds and this should be supported, without question, by the government regardless of progress towards meeting housing targets in the area.

  • You can read the full report here:

Ayako draws on her skills to take Gravett Award

Gravett Award winner Ayako Seki with Ptolemy Dean
Ayako’s notebook shows the quality of her work

All smiles at awards night. From left, Kent Historic Buildings Committee secretary Graham Horner, CPRE Kent chairman John Wotton, Craig Webster, judging panellists Clive Bowley, Ptolemy Dean and Stuart Page and Nikolaos Karydis of the Kent School of Architecture

An architecture student is £300 better off after winning a prestigious award sponsored by CPRE Kent’s Historic Buildings Committee.
Ayako Seki’s Dover Castle portfolio saw her take the Gravett Award, given for the best observational drawings of buildings or structures produced over the past year by an undergraduate at Kent School of Architecture, part of the University of Kent at Canterbury.
The award is named after Kent historic buildings enthusiast Kenneth Gravett, who died in 1999. It both rewards excellence among students and encourages the recording of existing buildings through hand-drawing.
Historic England says drawings of existing buildings and structures are “used to aid understanding by observation and close contact with building fabric. They are particularly useful for vernacular buildings and architectural details crucial to the history of a building or site.”
A total of 119 students had entered for the award, with just eight shortlisted. 
Ptolemy Dean, one of the country’s finest architects and a former Kent College pupil, chaired the judging panel, which was completed by Stuart Page and Clive Bowley.
It was, of course, cheers all round, Ptolemy having been awarded an OBE earlier this month (June).
Graham Horner, secretary of the Historic Buildings Committee, said: “The entries were once again of a very high standard. The finalists all got to present their work in person and get feedback from the judging panel.
“Ms Seki impressed the panel with her passion for, and understanding of the functionality of, the castle structure.”

To read about last year’s winner, click here

Monday, June 24, 2019

Architecture student Jake makes good impression to pick up Gravett Award

Jake Obichere with his sketch of St George’s Tower, Canterbury

Renowned architect Ptolemy Dean was chairman of the judges

Jake’s sketch of St George’s Tower impressed the judges

Gifted architecture student Jake Obichere has won this year’s Gravett Award, a prestigious competition sponsored by CPRE Kent.
His portfolio secured Jake £300 prize money, awarded by CPRE Kent’s historic buildings committee.
It is given for the best observational drawings of buildings or structures produced over the past year by an undergraduate at Kent School of Architecture, part of the University of Kent at Canterbury.
As well as rewarding excellence among students, the award, named after Kent historic buildings enthusiast Kenneth Gravett, who died in 1999, aims to encourage the recording of existing buildings through hand-drawing.
Drawings of existing buildings and structures are, says Historic England, “used to aid understanding by observation and close contact with building fabric. They are particularly useful for vernacular buildings and architectural details crucial to the history of a building or site.”
One of the country’s leading architects, former Kent College pupil Ptolemy Dean, chaired the judging panel, which was completed by Stuart Page and Clive Bowley.
Graham Horner, secretary of the historic buildings committee, said: “Jake’s drawings were executed with great flair and artistic ability yet still conveyed the essence of the buildings he’d drawn.
“His portfolio was impressive throughout, but the judges were particularly impressed by his images of Canterbury Cathedral and St George’s Tower in the city.
“It was nice that Ptolemy Dean went through all the entrants’ drawings in turn and offered suggestions as to how they could develop their work through their careers.”
Jess Ryder, David Edward and Dana Matei were also shortlisted in the competition.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018