Ministry offers £50k for document that will complement Scruton’s Building Beautiful Commission

James Brokenshire

Scouting for talent: Housing secretary James Brokenshire

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is seeking consultants to draw up a design manual for new homes, underpinning its strategy of winning public support for development that is “high standard”.

Reducing local opposition to new housing development is seen as crucial for ramping up delivery to the 300,000-homes-a-year level required to address decades of under-delivery.

MHCLG said it was seeking a built environment or third sector design consultancy for a £50,000 contract to provide urban design, architectural and landscape skills for the creation of a new design manual that will be hosted on the website.

The department, which recently appointed Andy von Bradsky as head of architecture, said the project was being led by the design team based in its planning directorate and that the contract would run for three months from the beginning of May.

Burbridge Close - Ilchester Road_Dagenham by Peter Barber

Peter Barber’s Burbridge Close development in Dagenham, praised by Roger Scruton

The notice on the government’s Contracts Finder portal said the new guidance would support the revised National Planning Policy Framework, and in particular its Achieving Well Designed Places chapter. The department said one area in which “specialist help” was required was with visuals to illustrate “design principles and projects”.

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It added: “The objective is to develop an easy-to-use toolkit that local planning authorities, developers, built environment professionals and other agencies involved in the design of the built environment can use to ensure quality is embedded in policies, programmes and projects.”

As well as referencing the recently updated NPPF, supporting information for the procurement cited February 2017’s Fixing Our Broken Housing Market White Paper, which contained a commitment to increasing the supply of new homes, with the pledge that “they must be of higher quality to achieve community support”.

Roger Scruton

Source: Shutterstock

Controversial: Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission chair Roger Scruton

According to MHCLG’s own terms of reference, the primary purpose of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission – chaired by architects’ bête noire Roger Scruton – is “to tackle the challenge of poor quality design and build of homes and places, across the country and help ensure as we build for the future we do so with popular consent”. However the procurement details do not refer to the commission.

Supporting information for the procurement exercise said the contract winner would be required to “critically” review existing and revised design guidance and codes, and “consider historic guidance with the same aims”. It cited the Urban Design Compendium, Cabe, the Design Companion and the Councillor’s Companion as examples.

It said the successful bidder would work with MHCLG officials to co-ordinate input from other agencies including other government departments and statutory consultees and produce a final draft version of text, covering design principles and project types.

The information pack said the appointed consultancy would also “propose images and illustrations to support text, drawing from existing illustrations, photos and other relevant material”. It will also be required to take part in two half-day workshops.

Where to find the government tender notice for the housing design manual.