Council in England fails to use new powers to block sloppy housing schemes | British news

Homebuilders reject substandard housing schemes with poor living conditions despite the fact that councils have the power to block them, according to new research.

The national planning policy framework was changed in July to allow for the refusal of “development that is not well designed”. A study by University College London showed that the Planning Inspectorate, which deals with homebuilders’ appeals, is now three times as likely to support advice that rejects developments for design reasons. But it also found that the vast majority of those blocked were in the southeast, suggesting that other places did not use the new powers.

Professor Matthew Carmona, who conducted the research, said that advice exhausted by austerity often lacked the internal design expertise to accommodate large developers with good resources.

“Local authorities in the south-east generally deal with more development and are more likely to have their own local design policies and hire urban designers. They are simply more geared to challenge developers, ”he said. “Councils in the Southwest, Midlands and North tend to see fewer developments and are more reluctant, and perhaps a little nervous, to call bad design.”

A survey last year showed that 41% of city councils do not employ any city designers and 76% lack access to architectural advice.

The change in the country’s planning rules was part of a package of measures that ministers claimed would ensure new housing was “beautiful and well-designed”. The government is setting up an “Office for Place” to help “communities promote development they find beautiful and reject what they find ugly”.

The report, published by the UCL-based Place Alliance, highlights 12 schemes that have been rejected due to design since July last year. The inspectorate found that proposals for an unattractive block of 15 apartments on the site of a demolished parking lot in Crawley, West Sussex, would offer “unsatisfactory living conditions.” Some apartments had limited natural light and the outdoor spaces were close to roads and railway lines. Others lacked privacy as the windows were next to people passing on a footbridge and close to cars queuing on a traffic turn system.

The inspectorate also supported the Braintree District Council’s efforts to block two estates on the outskirts of villages in Essex, where developers tried to squeeze a large number of houses in while scrubbing with houses nearby. Officials also dismissed an appeal regarding five tower blocks at the former Westferry newspaper printing house in east London. It was determined that the scheme – which led to a scandal over media mogul Richard Desmond’s contact with ministers tasked with planning decisions – would damage the appreciation of Greenwich’s World Heritage Site.

Carmona said major developers had had their will for decades, but the table began to turn. “Volume homebuilders have been able to get a lot of poor quality development past local authorities. But this research shows that councils can now be far more confident in their exercise of quality control,” he said.

Profits for the UK’s largest house builders continue to rise despite the fact that they routinely produce low – quality housing and have not met the UK’s estimated housing needs. UCL researchers rated three-quarters of major developments in the UK as “mediocre” or “poor” by 2020.

They found bland architecture, with estates dominated by access roads and parking lots at the expense of green spaces and playgrounds. Other shortcomings included few public transport links and lack of facilities such as shops, pubs and cafes.

Carmona said it was possible to increase the number of houses built without compromising on the design factors that allow a new community to flourish.

“We have a desperate need for housing, but that does not mean we have to build poorly designed, unsustainable places,” he said.

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