Tag Archives: house design

Empowering Communities


Fitzwilliam MaltonNew Housing Design was the subject of a piece of high political theatre today in Westminster Hall as a Tory MP sought to hold new Housing Minister Alok Sharma MP to account.

Neil Parish MP had organised the debate after concerns about the quality of new homes in the UK from the design phase onwards. His solution? To include communities from the outset in the design of new homes and neighbourhoods.

This complaint is certainly nothing new but it was perhaps interesting to understand his angle of attack. Neil Parish wants to see developers and house builders held to account through the creation of a new post of New Homes Ombudsman who could at least help new home owners ensure that any issues with the quality of the build of their dream house are addressed quickly.

Perhaps unsurprisingly this call was echoed by members from both sides of the chamber, including former bag carrier to previous Housing Minister Gavin Barwell, Rebecca Pow, and the only chartered planner in the chamber, Helen Hayes MP. All speakers suggested that high quality developments and homes would be much more likely to get local support, although this is probably difficult to prove.

In response, Alok Sharma hid behind existing and planned policy. He proclaimed that there is a robust framework in place which emphasises the importance of high quality design and encourages engaging with the local community. He went on to say that the Housing White Paper would reinforce this further – but declined to say when or how the White Paper (or the changes to the NPPF) will be taken forward. The debate ended with the Minister concluded by saying that he would consider the role of an ombudsman.

As a debate it certainly won’t be one for the annuals, but Neil Parish has raised an interesting point at a time when Tory back benchers know they need to be listened to.  The Minister won’t be able to bat these calls away and there may be some action on an ombudsman – beating the housing industry always goes down well with voters.

However, it is harder to see what can be done about getting communities involved earlier in the design process. This is something the government would rather leave to local councils. We might also conclude that the government needs to see new homes built now and worry about fixing the issues later. . .