Design matters, new research says, with huge support in the UK for traditional new homes

The housing crisis in the UK will only be solved if the developers of new homes place more emphasis on design and style to gain the support of existing communities, according to new research.

Support for traditional design is highest among lower socio-economic groups and Nimbyism can be overcome if plans better reflect people’s desire for traditional building design, like Victorian terraces and Georgian blocks, according to the research from think tank the Policy Exchange.

Less than three in 10 people from London and the South East believe too many homes are being built in their area. In fact, people are generally positive about new homes, even when they are built in their neighbourhood.

No more than one in 10 respondents, wherever they live, feel new homes are currently built with good design and style and modern living requirements in mind while 41% believe the local community should have the most say over how new homes and communities are developed in the South East.

However, only 3% believe that the community is consulted while 37% of people believe developers have the most say while only 11% think they should.

Some 77% agree that cost is too often an excuse for badly designed, soulless new developments and 56% think that new modern homes are built as cheaply as possible to maximise profit for the developer.

The survey also found that 63% believe that new homes can be built with good design and style and modern living requirements at the heart of the design process without spending more.

And 85% across all socioeconomic groups said new homes should either fit in with their more traditional surroundings or be identical to homes already there while lower socioeconomic groups are most likely to agree that architects should build comfortable and beautiful homes, and to disagree more strongly that new buildings should be adventurous, different or seek to shock.

The vast majority, 84%, think that better quality buildings and public spaces improve people’s quality of life and 68% think a well-designed neighbourhood will reduce crime. Some 75% think traditional design and style improves quality of life and 65% think traditionally designed housing helps foster positive community relations.

When it comes to the size of developments, 44% of people support medium rise developments, 70% of people support low rise traditional two storey properties and 79% support garden cities.

The report recommends that every local planning authority should produce a design and style guide in consultation with local residents and local wishes should be incorporated into the definition of sustainable development.

‘Planning should always seek to secure high quality design and a good standard of amenity for all existing and future occupants of land and buildings, reflecting local public will on issues of building design and style,’ it says.

It also calls for accelerated planning permission for developments which reflect design and style codes and favourable views for developments where locals have been consulted and the creation of a new designation of ‘Special Areas of Residential Character’ to give residents confidence that new developments will be in keeping with existing look and style.

In a foreword to the report, Secretary of State for Housing James Brokenshire said that under revisions of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) currently being consulted on, communities will get a say on the type of homes being built.

‘We want to see local communities intimately engaged in helping to shape the future of the development in their area, feeding in their views on the design and style of new developments and helping local authorities create style guides and codes which developers can use to meet the needs of communities,’ he writes.

‘For London this is a particular need. With land values high and the requirement for innovative use of space and higher densities, the need to build homes which are sympathetic to their surroundings and that add, not detract, to the sense of place which an area already has is paramount,’ he continues.

‘We don’t just want to build estates, we want to create communities. We want to build, through new development, on the strength and quality of Britain’s towns and cities. New homes shouldn’t be seen as a burden on communities but rather as strengthening communities,’ he adds.