Residents should help design new houses being built in their neighbourhood, according to a report aimed at tackling ‘nimbyism’.
An investigation into the housing crisis, co-written by a former Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales, believes giving local people the power to dictate how developments look would help increase building rates – particularly in the south east.
The report – produced by the influential Policy Exchange think-tank – calls for all councils to produce a “design and style” guide for new builds within 18 months, following consultations with residents and locally-based architects.
The proposal was given a lukewarm reception by the Federation of Master Builders, which represents 8,000 small and medium-sized business companies, with chief executive Brian Berry telling HuffPost UK: “Smaller house builders want to engage in dialogue with local communities about the design of new homes, and are well-placed to do so and to incorporate local character into their developments.
“How we do this is very important, though. Having new homes designed by committee would not be a recipe for success.
“We agree with the suggestion put forward by Policy Exchange that design and style guides, fully informed by community consultation, should become the norm.
“However, it must then be the case that planning applications coming forward that meet these guidelines cannot then be refused on design grounds.”
The Policy Exchange report contains new research claiming that fewer than three-in-ten people from London and the South East believe too many homes are being built in their area.
The survey of more than 5,000 people showed residents are generally positive about new homes, even when they are built in their neighbourhood.
The report calls for councils to create “design panels”, a third of whose members should be architects “living or practising locally”.
It adds: “At least one third of the panel should be members of the public who are either likely to live in new homes being built, or who already live in similar types of properties.”
Sir Robin Wales said: “If the government wants to meet its target of building 300,000 new homes a year, they need to recognise that good design and style are vital to securing local consent for development. Poorer communities in particular are keen to see more traditional design and style which is more likely to fit in with existing buildings.”
In a foreword to the report, Housing Secretary James Brokenshire indicated he would be considering adopting the call to give locals a greater say in housing designs, saying: “I support this report’s intention: to start a debate about the design, style and quality of new housing and how it best meets people’s needs. In the coming months I look forward to discussing these matters further.”