Homes fail design quality inspection

Just six per cent of new private housing in northern England is of good quality, the government's design watchdog has claimed.

A Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) housing audit published this week reviewed 93 schemes by the ten largest volume house builders in the North East, North West and Yorkshire and Humber.

It concludes that 94 per cent of private homes built in the last three years fall short on design quality, with 24 per cent of the schemes judged "poor" and 70 per cent deemed "average".

CABE's last audit of London and the South East had similar results, with 22 per cent of schemes earning a "poor" rating. The commission held that home buyers are not getting the quality they deserve.

Chief executive Richard Simmons said: "These latest findings show that the design quality of new housing is a national problem. We are planning to build the largest number of homes for decades, yet almost a quarter of them built in the past three years are judged poor and the vast majority are simply average."

In a separate poll of residents in 11 of the audited northern schemes, CABE found that the "vast majority" consider the area where they live to be merely "average". Reported weaknesses include parking, public space, scheme layouts, a lack of character and identity and marketing material promising services that never materialise.

CABE called on planning authorities to have the confidence to reject bad design, house builders to appoint a "design champion" at board level and ministers to ensure that quality design is central to planning guidance.

Home Builders Federation director of external affairs John Slaughter declined to comment directly on CABE's findings. But he said: "The delivery of good urban design is very complex and requires all authorities to come together in the right way on issues such as roads and car parking. Developers must have the right climate in which to work and we all need to share best practice."

- See Editorial, page 11.

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