Minister attacks builders of 'little box' housing

House builders are ruining the landscape with "little boxes" with little architectural merit or local character, the Housing minister, Nick Raynsford, said yesterday.

Launching an urban design guide aimed at tackling bad planning, Mr Raynsford also attacked builders for continuing to make houses with big gardens in rural areas.

The minister said there was to be no government "blueprint" for good design, but new developments should fit in with their surroundings and local people should be consulted.

The new guide, By Design, said one example of good design was the revamped Peace Gardens in Sheffield, which provided a safe, traffic-free haven for visitors and residents. Another was Hulme, in Manchester, where monumental concrete council blocks were torn down and replaced with traditional streets and community facilities.

But Mr Raynsford said some developers were still ignoring good design, particularly on housing estates. "We have seen some very poor-quality private developments - little boxes put together with no sense of feel for the area. These are equally a cause of shame and disappointment," he said.

He also confessed to a "horror" of 1960s and 1970s estates such as the Aylesbury in Southwark, south London, where Tony Blair made his first speech on the inner cities as Prime Minister, and the nearby Heygate estate. Both are the subject of regeneration programmes.

He said local authorities should be able to point to the guide when they turned down a planning application on the grounds of bad design.

Brian Raggett, chairman of the Urban Design Alliance, also speaking at the launch, said some cities had been marred by inner ring roads such as Birmingham's, which was being redesigned to improve pedestrian access.

"We are recognising there is a need to repair some of the damage of the Sixties and Seventies," he said.

A spokesman for the House Builders' Federation said the "little boxes" Mr Raynsford described were built because people wanted to buy them.

"People evidently want to live in them because, obviously, people are purchasing them," the spokesman said. "That is not to say we can't improve the quality of the design."

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