English housing needs to focus on environmental quality

An independent audit of English housing developments has found a large majority (74%) of new developments to be of ‘poor’ to ‘mediocre’ quality. The audit, produced by CPRE, the Place Alliance, UCL Bartletts and others, looked at 142 new housing developments across the country and assessed them against 17 ‘place quality’ criteria, including criteria addressing the environmental impact, landscape and biodiversity quality of the sites.

“69% of the developments were found to be ‘very poor’ to ‘mediocre’ on landscape and biodiversity criteria.”

Focusing specifically on the landscape and biodiversity criteria, the audit found that 69% of the developments were ‘very poor’ to ‘mediocre’ quality. The report noted, “too often green landscape and biodiversity was sacrificed for hard over-engineered environment“.

The report looked at some of the factors underlying the lack of good quality housing design. It found that less affluent areas were more likely to show lower place quality, and even large developers could vary in the quality of sites they delivered, . Another link was made urban areas which generally produced better quality scores; “Nearly a third of the schemes developed on greenfield sites were rated as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’”. Similarly, the higher density sites tended to score more highly on quality (based on dwellings per hectare). In addition, where developers placed a greater emphasis on design quality those sites also tended to show better place quality outcomes.

Our free tool, the Wildlife Assessment Check seeks to encourage developers to take account of ecological impacts early in the design phase of a development, making it easier to design-in nature, plan ahead and invest in making multi-functional ecological enhancements. It is clear that in the face of ecological decline in the UK, new housing projects need to focus much more on working in harmony with nature, seeking benefits for wildlife, ecological functioning, aesthetic quality and wellbeing, as well as improving climate mitigation and resilience.

Report link:  A Housing Design Audit for England (2020)


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