Study led by University of Glasgow finds quality of new housing design across all four nations is still 'stubbornly low' and in need of more regulation

Report carried out by a team including University of Glasgow academics follows an in-depth study into new homes and neighbourhoods around the UK and argues that these collectively fail to meet the aims of national planning policy statements in all four nations.

The UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence, based in Bridgeton, Glasgow, has published a report after a study led by University of Glasgow found that the quality of design for new homes across the UK remains 'stubbornly low', failing to meet aims of planning and design policy.
The UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence, based in Bridgeton, Glasgow, has published a report after a study led by University of Glasgow found that the quality of design for new homes across the UK remains 'stubbornly low', failing to meet aims of planning and design policy.

A report titled, Delivering design value: The housing design quality conundrum, establishes 12 policy and practice recommendations for the housing sector after finding that all four nations have failed to deliver well-designed new homes.

Case studies from five local authority areas were analysed by academics from the University of Glasgow, University of Reading and the Royal Town Planning Institute, with East Lothian studied as Scotland’s case study.

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It claims that local authorities and the housebuilding industry are ultimately accountable for the poor quality of design for new builds around the UK, stating that each can be blamed in its own way for failing to deliver sustainable homes for British citizens.

The report builds on existing links drawn between poor housing design and unsustainability in concluding that new house and neighbourhood designs reflect under-resourced local authorities and development processes.

It also suggests that new housing and neighbourhood design is inhibited by demand to meet housing targets and pressure to make decisions quickly, rather than with quality and sustainability in mind.

Dr James White, MRTPI, senior lecturer in Urban Design at the University of Glasgow and co-investigator at the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence. He commented:

“Delivering Design Value is the first in-depth study to examine the process of planning and designing new housing in well over a decade. It uniquely features case studies from all four UK nations and is based on interviews with a wide range of people involved in the planning, design and development process at local level.

“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.”

Incoming President of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), Dr Wei Yang FRTPI, said: “The RTPI is delighted to have co-authored this report as part of the Institute’s involvement in CaCHE.

"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 argues that in order to improve on new home and neighbourhood design across all four nations, there should be additional regulation and oversight from their governments, with minimum design standards adopted to help local authorities pursue ‘design-led’ plans for new builds.

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