Headlines: July 21st, 2006

Local authorities and developers are facing a call to put greater emphasis on good design in planning new homes. Communities and Local Government Secretary Ruth Kelly told the audience at the Housing Design Awards that design was fundamental to creating strong and cohesive communities.Meanwhile new figures show that the proportion of new homes built on brownfield land reached a record high of 74 per cent last year, up from 56 per cent in 1997. The average density of new developments is at 41 dwellings per hectare, which is up from 25 in 1997. Current planning policy prioritises the use of brownfield sites to protect green spaces and prevent urban sprawl.Ruth Kelly said good design was key to getting the right housing where it was needed. It meant, she said, attractive places with a mixture of size and tenure, high environmental standards and green spaces. “We need to build more homes to meet demand, which requires higher densities which makes good design even more crucial, ” she added.

At the same time the Government announced the winning bid for the final site in its Design for Manufacture competition in Merton. The successful SixtyK Consortium will be an exemplar in sustainable development, emiting more than 70 per cent less carbon compared with 2002 standards. It will include renewable technology, a combined heat and power facility and rainwater collection and recycling. All local authorities are being urged to to use lessons from the competition to deliver well designed homes for around 60,000 pounds in their areas. The next phase of the competition is being developed and will set new challenges to build eco-communities, making sustainable development more affordable.

The overall prize in the Housing Design Awards went to the Accordia scheme in Cambridge, a high density project that includes a mixture of family sized flats and town-houses with large lawns and communal area