By Jennifer Sprinks
Architects have denounced the government's house-building programme as 'madness' for failing to make better use of available land.
Speaking at the Westminster Housing Commission's debate on sustainable neighbourhoods, architects and town planners argued that the high-density route is a cheaper means of building developments because it demands infrastructure be brought closer together for health services, education and transport, which attracts more investment.
Architect, urban designer and Westminster Housing Commissioner Sir Terry Farrell, said: 'I do not believe the numbers game because it is about 'place making'.
'There's a kind of madness about how we organise our house-building in this country.
'In the Thames Gateway we could get more people living there than planned because it is practically the same size as central London. So why are there plans for 200,000 homes in the south-east when you can get more homes in London and the Gateway?
'[The borough of] Kensington and Chelsea has the highest density in the world without having high-rise buildings,' said Sir Terry. 'Density is not the cause of housing problems and therefore there's no need to spread [houses] out. It's a town planning issue rather than a housing shortage issue.'
The South East England Regional Assembly's planning manager John Pounder rejected the claims that the 200,000 houses were unnecessary. He agreed however there was a need to move towards higher density, but that it was just as important to ensure new developments take account of local needs and aspirations. 'We can't have a blanket approach to high density as it will vary within different areas,' he said.
A spokesman from the House Builders Federation added: 'Too often the planning system is used to negate the house building programme and we do not think that is right. We want councils to encourage house-building, while allowing us the freedom to cater for housing needs across the market.'