National assessment is first since abolition of Cabe

The first systematic audit of housing design quality since Cabe was scrapped has been announced.

The project, which will examine at least 100 large-scale developments across England, will feed into the work of the government’s controversial Building Better, Building Beautiful commission.

The idea is to help drive the creation of better-quality residential schemes.

Matthew Carmona

Matthew Carmona

The audit, which is being led by Matthew Carmona (pictured), professor of planning and urban design at the Barlett School of Planning, is backed by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) and Place Alliance. Set up by Carmona in the wake of the Farrell Review, Place Alliance campaigns for better-quality places for people to live and work.

Factors being assessed will include housing types, architectural quality, development character, location, local community facilities and quality of open space.

Three similar audits of new developments in different regions across England were carried out in 2004 and 2007 by Cabe which was disbanded in 2011.

The results of those surveys were mixed, with barely a fifth (18%) of the developments studied labelled “good” or “very good”, while just over half (53%) were deemed “average” and 29% classed as “poor”.

The CPRE and Place Alliance said the aim of the latest audit was to look at how the design of housing schemes over the last decade had changed and provide a “baseline against which to measure progress on place-making in new housing development going forward”.

Carmona said: “We know much about the numbers of houses we are delivering nationally, but almost nothing about their quality. This housing design audit represents an ambitious attempt to address that gap and provide a baseline from which to make more informed judgements in the future about the standard of housing design that we should be expecting, both nationally and locally.”

Among the 11 organisations supporting the audit are the Home Builders Federation, the Design Council and Arup.

The work, which is due to complete later this year, is also supported by professional input from Arup, JTP, Spawforths and Urbed and a network of specially trained volunteers.

 The design quality of the external residential environment will be measured against 17 topics:

1. Community facilities - Does the development provide (or is it close to) community facilities, such as a school, parks, play areas, shops, pubs or cafés?

2. Housing types - Is there a mix of housing types to meet varied local needs?

3. Public transport - Does the development have easy access to public transport?

4. Environmental impact - Does the development have a low environmental impact?

5. The locality - Is the design specific to the scheme?

6. Existing and new landscape - Does the scheme exploit existing landscape or topography and create a new bio-diverse landscape?

7. Character of the development - Does the scheme feel like a place with a distinctive character?

8. Street legibility - Do the buildings and layout make it easy to find your way around?

9. Street definition - Are streets defined by a well-structured building layout?

10. Highway design - Does the building layout take priority over the road, so that highways do not dominate?

11. Car parking - Is the car parking well integrated and situated, so it supports the street scene?

12. Pedestrian friendly - Are the streets pedestrian and cycle friendly?

13. Connectivity within and with the surroundings developments - Does the street layout connect up internally and integrate with existing streets, paths and surrounding development?

14. Safety and security - Are open spaces, play areas and streets overlooked and do they feel safe?

15. Public, open and play spaces - Is public, open and play spaces well designed and does it have suitable management arrangements in place?

16. Architectural quality - Do the buildings exhibit architectural quality?

17. Storage and bins - Are storage spaces well designed and do they integrate well within the development?


Source: CPRE/Place Alliance