Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda


Memorandum by Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) (HOU 33)

INTRODUCTION

  The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) is an Executive Non-Departmental Public Body, established by the Government in 1999 to promote high standards in the design of new buildings and the spaces between them. Its remit covers England.

  CABE is a non-statutory consultee in matters of affordable housing. It is funded by grant-in-aid from the Department for Culture Media and Sport and the Office for the Deputy Prime Minister.

  Commissioners are appointed by the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport. They are drawn from a range of areas of expertise and include architects, planners, an engineer, a quantity surveyor and specialists in the fields of housing design and built environment education.

  Some of CABE's day-to-day work is undertaken by committees, including a design review committee and an enabling panel. The design review committee offers advice to planning committees and others on the design of strategic development projects. The enabling panel offers advice to clients in the public and private sectors who aspire to quality but would welcome technical assistance on matters such as brief development, selection of architects and choice of procurement route.

CABES INVOLVEMENT IN AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Developing urban design guidelines

  CABE have worked on a number of key documents aimed at improving the quality of housing developments. The PPG3 companion guide "Better Places to Live" and the Urban Design Compendium both offer design guide advice on place-making.

Working with the Housing Corporation

  CABE have a service level agreement with the Housing Corporation to enable 10 Housing Association projects over the next two years. The aim is to work with Housing Associations helping them to deliver exemplary housing projects, the lessons of which can be disseminated widely through a regular newsletter to RSLs.

  We are working with the Housing Corporation on a publication "Better Affordable Housing" which will give guidance to Registered Social Landlords on best practice.

  The Housing Corporation have appointed board member Sir Duncan Michael to act as Design Champion. CABE fully supports this appointment and are working with the Corporation to appoint regional Design Champions. The appointment of Design Champions should be extended to Housing Associations.

  CABE is working with The Housing Corporation to establish guidelines for an in-house design review panel for each region and has undertaken training for the 16 technical officers who appraise schemes.

Sharing knowledge internationally

  CABE have ageed a joint action plan with the Direction de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine (The French Ministry of Architecture and Heritage) to offer support for demonstration Franco-British projects, starting with a partnership on the architectural and urban quality of affordable or social housing. The Housing Corporation is supporting this initiative. We will be working with Housing Associations to build exemplary housing projects using joint Anglo-French design teams. The work will be monitored with the aim of drawing up best practice guidelines.

Establishing a database of exemplary projects

  CABE is building a digital library and database of exemplary housing projects these include affordable housing and illustrate excellence in design, functionality and good place-making. CABE would welcome the opportunity of visiting affordable housing projects with the Committee in order to illustrate design excellence. There are a number of exceptional projects in the UK such as Murray Grove and BedZed by the Peabody Trust, CASPAR housing by Rowntree, Bloomfield Court by Ujima Housing Association and Preston Point by Maritime Housing Association up in Liverpool.

  This memorandum of evidence relates to the final question raised by the Select Committee in its terms of reference for the inquiry, namely:

    "How the quality of new affordable housing can be ensured and the poor design of previous house building programmes avoided"

  We consider that the following 10 policy priorities are key to improving the design quality of affordable housing:

    —  All developments, whether led by a commercial developer or non-profit making body should be integrating different tenures within the same scheme and, indeed, where possible and appropriate, within the same buildings, following models of best practice established in The Netherlands and Scandinavia.

    —  The process of procuring affordable housing through s106 agreements should be reformed to ensure that the affordable housing is fully integrated into developments or the current system is replaced by a tariff arrangement that can be directed towards affordable housing providers in a planned way.

    —  The statutory funding system for affording housing should be substantially liberalised to enable housing associations greater freedom to undertake cross-subsidy schemes and joint ventures to achieve higher quality mixed tenure developments.

    —  The cost per unit assumptions that underpin the output targets set by the Government for the Housing Corporation should be reviewed to ensure that they are being set on a best value basis and that it is possible to develop high quality schemes in all parts of the country

    —  There should be a design review of all Government funded schemes over a certain size to ensure consistency of standards.

    —  The staffing of the Housing Corporation should be revisited to ensure that the Corporation has the necessary design and strategic planning skills to promote best practice across the affordable housing sector.

    —  There needs to be consistency between the demands of planning guidance and other statutory bodies such as highways authorities, to allow affordable housing providers to pursue high quality schemes with confidence; to start with, the Government should implement the 12 recommendations in "Paving the Way".

    —  Other than in rural areas, there should be a presumption that affordable housing should be developed around transport nodes that could be facilitated by the introduction of Transport Development Areas.

    —  All housing developments involving Government funding above a certain size should be based upon a commissioned urban design plan to establish principles of layout, massing etc from the outset of the project. In many cases, this could then be adopted as SPG.

    —  The Government should initiate a much more active approach to land assembly to create more meaningful development sites for affordable housing schemes, with a special emphasis on the Thames Gateway.

    —  The Government should establish a permanent successor body to the Housing Forum to work with clients and the industry to improve standards of design and construction through advisory services, professional training and demonstration projects, with a special emphasis on fulfilling the potential of off-site fabrication methods.


 
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