The design quality of new homes and neighbourhoods across the UK remains stubbornly low, according to a new report by academics.
The University of Glasgow’s study - called Delivering Design Value: The Housing Design Quality Conundrum - looked at the entire UK and says new homes and neighbourhoods typically fail to meet the ambitions of national planning policy statements in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
It argues that all the government and industry bodies presiding over new housing have collectively failed to deliver well-designed places to live “and must share the blame for the poorly designed and unsustainable neighbourhoods that are approved and built in the UK.”
Urban design lecturer James White, the lead report author, says: “The research shows that the housebuilding industry is dominated by a small number of large and powerful developers that have little interest in creating well-designed places.
“On the contrary, the research reveals that small and medium sized developers are motivated by design but struggle to gain a foothold in the industry.
“We also recommend that governments should identify ways to support small and medium sized developers to enter the housebuilding marketplace through tax incentives and changes to the way land is allocated for housing development.”
The report claims that “design is consistently marginalised by under-resourced local authorities and development processes” and the industry and local authorities are driven instead to achieve housing targets or to make a planning decision quickly.
The report team – from Glasgow and Reading universities and the Royal Town Planning Institute – looked at case studies in five local authority areas: East Lothian, Bridgend, Belfast, South Oxfordshire and Rotherham.
Incoming RTPI president Wei Yang adds: “Future planning reforms across the UK must put place-making and design quality at their heart and more must be done to translate positive policy rhetoric on design quality into actionable, measurable and well-funded solutions.”
The report demands the four UK national governments should consider adopting minimum design standards implemented by local authorities using local plans that are design-led. It wants local authorities to be better resourced by government to ensure that skilled designers are involved in championing and shaping design at every stage of the planning and development process.