A Housing Design Audit for England

With the drive to deliver more homes across England has come a call for those developments to be of a high standard of design in order to deliver high quality, liveable and sustainable environments for residents. Research has consistently shown that high quality design makes new residential developments more acceptable to local communities and delivers huge value to all.

Housing design audits represent a systematic approach to assessing the design quality of the external residential environment. This new audit evaluated the design of 142 large-scale housing-led development projects across England against seventeen design considerations. It provided enough data for comparisons to be made regionally and against the results of previous housing design audits conducted over a decade before. It establishes a new baseline from which to measure progress on housing design quality in the future.

Whilst some limited progress has been made in some regions, overwhelmingly the message was that the design of new housing environments in England were ‘mediocre’ or ‘poor’.

For some housebuilders, as long as there is a ready market for poor quality design, and they can continue to get this product through the planning system, there may be little incentive to improve. For some planning authorities, the short-term imperative to deliver new homes may continue to trump the long-term negative impact of the environments that are being built. For some highways authorities, the very notion of good place-making is, as yet, simply not on the radar. Collectively, as the results of the audit showed, we need to significantly raise our game if we are to create the sorts of places that future generations will feel proud to call home. The recommendations in the resulting report show how.