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