Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), Chris Murray's job is, ironically, to spread the word about urban regeneration and the benefits of bringing neighbors closer together in compact new housing developments. However, his faith in the Government's happy, high-density vision was severely tested after 12 months in the "sardine can" Leeds apartment. The flat itself - half-way up the 12-storey building - was small and pokey and packed with intensely annoying features: self-closing doors, designed to minimize the risk of fire spreading, echoed constantly around the fashionable wood floors and bare walls; and unworkable temperature controls left Chris either shivering or sweltering.
The Government insists that nearly four million new homes need to be built over the next 20 years, and officials are poised to introduce a sliding scale of building regulations which would push minimum density levels for new city housing up to 70 homes per hectare (around the same as a full-size football pitch). In less urban areas, the minimums for new developments would remain lower: about 30 homes per hectare.
CABE, however, is concerned that developers and architects are designing by numbers rather than planning each project in harmony with its surroundings. It wants local councils to have a bigger say. ''Developers have been using the fact that we need more homes to build thousands of one and two-bedroom flats that people don't necessarily want,'' says CABE's chief executive, Richard Simmons. ''While it's important to measure density, the worry for us with a national minimum is that developers start building high-density projects in low-density areas, and completely change their character. Existing schools have got no capacity to cope with new demand. There are not enough roads, and so on.''
Complete Article and Images are available in Building Giants May-July 2011 Issue