Azara Blog: New UK housing estates allegedly dreadful

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Date published: 2005/11/18

The BBC says:

A housing estate in County Durham has been branded the worst new development in northern England, according to a government-funded buildings watchdog.

Only 6% of new developments across the North were rated as good in the The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (Cabe) study.

Their report described the 141-home estate at Villa Real in Consett, as a "truly awful development".

The builder Persimmon described it as much-needed affordable housing.

The estate, which scored the lowest in an audit of 93 new housing developments in the North, was criticised for its "identikit" appearance, its small garages and poor parking provision.

Cabe has hit out at the majority of new homes being built as failing to measure up on design quality.

Developments completed between 2002 and January 2005 were examined for their character, roads, parking and pedestrianisation, construction environment and community.

The study said recurrent problems include poorly defined streets and public space, illogical site layouts and the failure to create a distinct sense of place.

A spokesman said the overall standard of the vast majority of the schemes fell substantially below what was needed to realise the aims of government plans for sustainable communities.

Of the Villa Real development of detached and semi-detached homes, Cabe said there was "a complete failure to create a sense of character and identity, consisting of identikit houses with no architectural quality and no reference to the local vernacular."

Peter Jordan, regional projects director for Persimmon, said: "The type of housing that was built in Consett at that time in a very price-sensitive marked has done exactly what it says on the tin.

"People wanted houses with gardens and parking and garages, and that's what they've got. It has kept people in the town."

Cabe called for house builders and local planning authorities to work closer for the benefit of home buyers.

Britain has been building "identikit" housing for centuries. Just look at all the Georgian and Victorian terraces and the long rows of 1930s semis. (No doubt the chattering classes in the 18th century complained about the horrid terraces being built, which are now considered wonderful by today's chattering classes.) One has to assume Persimmon knows better than Cabe (middle class control freaks) what their customers are willing to put up with, given the (real) constraint of price. The big problem with UK housing is that the price of land is kept artificially high by the planning rules enforced by the ruling elite. This by itself means that almost all housing in Britain has to be built by a developer, rather than by individuals (with the help of an architect). With development land costing millions of pounds per acre, you are never going to get decent, cheap housing, especially if you want to include parking and a garden. Of course most of the UK planning elite think no housing for ordinary people should include a decent garden or (especially) parking, since allegedly anything that is not high density rabbit hutches is "unsustainable". So it's quite amazing to see that Cabe is supposedly worried about "small garages and poor parking provision". Of course anyone who uses the dreadful phrase "sustainable communities" is already suspect. And the planning elite and local authorities of Britain do not have a good track record when it comes to housing design, being more interested in politically correct ideology than in what the home owners might actually want. Developers are not great but the government dictated alternative is usually worse.

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