Tuesday29 July 2014

Use X-Factor contests to judge housing says planning minister

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Nick Boles calls for competitions which allow public to vote on developments

X-Factor style competitions should be launched to allow people to judge local housing developments, planning minister Nick Boles has said.

Speaking to BBC Newsnight on Wednesday, Boles said house builders and architects are failing to design and build the type of housing wanted by the public.

Nick Boles

Nick Boles

“One of the things I’ve been trying to encourage newspapers to do is to actually have an X-Factor competition with their readers to vote for the best and the worst development,” he said.

“We don’t necessarily build, and architects don’t necessarily design, houses that people want to live in.”

Boles’s comments were backed up by designer Wayne Hemingway, who said research conducted by Design Council Cabe showed that the public dislikes a large percentage of new housing.

“Twenty-nine percent of new housing was considered by the public to be ugly,” said Hemingway, a trustee of the Design Council. “Fifty-three percent was considered to be average or below average.”

Boles’s comments followed a widely trailed report in which he blamed “pig-ugly” housing for turning public opinion against new development.

“The reason why people object to us building on open farm and open land is because we build ugly rubbish,” he said.

But his claims were disputed by Taylor Wimpey chief executive Pete Redfern. “The comment was made that we are not building houses that people want to live in,” he said. “We absolutely are.

“Customers appreciate the houses we are building and actually they are very much delivered to meet that customer demand.”


Readers' comments (17)

  • It's not just the houses and the design quality Mr Redfearn and Mr Boles. Its the lack of coherent masterplanning and infrastructure. If we build on green field we have to spend big on new infrastructure (hospitals, schools, roads, sewers etc). Not to mention devastate the delicate natural habitats and eco systems that make our country so great. Build on effing brownfield please for heavens sake, so we not only stitch the urban fabric back together repairing existing communities but also save money by regenrating the existing infrastructure.

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  • This is not a bad idea. I'd also like to see a survey of architects' own houses to see if any live in a place remotely like the housing that is designed 'for the masses.'

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  • Hi Ninian

    Interestingly this point was actually referred to by Pete Redfern on Newsnight. He claimed that house builders often make higher profits from brownfield sites for a number of reasons, but partly because there is less need to build supporting infrastructure.

    You can watch the programme here:



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  • Thanks Mark. Yeah I am planning to at the weekend! Trapped in office until then...

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  • ....most housing is not designed by architects
    ....x-factor viewers vote for enthusiastic amateaurs - many spent good money voting for Jedwood
    Boles' really knows where to aim criticism and how to drive improvement - or maybe I'm just one of those out of touch designers...

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  • Gramsci

    Don't blame architects for the poor quality, blame the developers and contractors.

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  • Gramsci there are plenty of utterly awful architects and designers out there. Trust me.

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  • james francis

    irene1000, I live in housing designed for the masses designed by a well-respected architect and it is rubbish. Not really to do with the architecture but the value engineering and poor quality of construction (the developer also went bust).

    These minister sounds like a populist fool, long term well thought out strategies are needed from government not publicity grabbing stunts. It is about time that architects stood up and stopped these ill-informed people talking tripe, let’s get the RIBA to promote architecture by raising awareness of architects and also by highlighting where the failings are, we all know it comes down to the industry wanting to churn out the cheapest dross they can get away with. This is why the public needs our help to understand what they should be being offered in the way of housing standards.

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  • Well, the public have shown that they can choose the best musical acts this way, along with the best political parties so...

    Oh, wait.

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  • The Public? Seriously?

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