Minister backs ‘Building For Life 12’ and recognises first commended projects

6 February, 2013

Planning Minister Nick Boles will tonight officially recognise five of the first developments that meet the revised Building for Life 12 criteria for design quality, safety and community at a parliamentary event hosted by Andrew Bridgen MP, member for North West Leicestershire. 

BfL12 was relaunched in September last year by its partners – the Home Builders Federation, Cabe at the Design Council and Design for Homes - and is the third iteration of the industry owned and Government endorsed guide for developers and local authorities for new home and neighbourhood design. It was revised to ensure it is best suited to the needs of the reformed planning system under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and Localism Act. In the coming weeks many more developments will receive BFL recognition, demonstrating the progress made since September in establishing it as a recognised tool for achieving housing quality.

BfL12 is designed to help local communities become more involved in design conversations and in shaping development proposals. Its 12 questions provide a structure for discussions between local communities, the local planning authority, the developer and other stakeholders, to ensure that the design of new homes and their neighbourhood are as attractive, functional and sustainable as possible.

Its development is the result of a unique collaboration between house builders, local authorities, planners, architects and academics and draws on the innovative approach to the promotion of design quality adopted by North West Leicestershire Council through its “ourplace” initiative. Its 12 criteria were specifically developed in response to communities’ views, and to enable stakeholders involved in housing to consider all the elements of what makes “a good place to live” at the design stage. It provides an understanding between existing communities and the new residents coming in and should give purchasers real confidence in their new home.

The NPPF, published in March last year, puts a lot more power and responsibility in the hands of local authorities and local communities. It also gives continued weight to promoting design quality. BfL12 will help communities as they work with developers to seek outcomes that are both practical and ensure the developments planned for their area provide maximum benefit to existing and new residents.

BfL12 will also help house builders to continue the significant efforts made in recent years to drive up customer satisfaction levels, so that they are now at an all time high.

The five schemes to be recognised – which all recently gained planning approval – are ones that have met all12 of the criteria as a result of constructive dialogue at the local level. In addition, they show that newly designed housing developments can fit in with local architectural tradition where this is an important consideration. They are from five very different marketplaces and locations;

Church Fields, Boston Spa – 170 houses on a greenfield site in a conservation area in North Yorkshire Seven Acres, Clay Farm/Great Kneighton, Cambridge – 128 houses and apartments as an early phase of a large extension to the urban boundary of the city of Cambridge Starvehall Farm, Cheltenham – up to 330 homes plus an additional 60 to be provided as extra care units plus a 60-bed nursing care home on greenfield land within Cheltenham limits on land newly brought into local plan Roussillon Park, Chichester– 252 homes on a redeveloped MOD barracks land to the north of Chichester city Manor Kingsway. Derby - 700 homes including an extra care facility plus shops and offices in the redevelopment of a hospital site promoted by HCA 

All show that it is the balance between buildings and landscape that make the impression. BFL12 encapsulates the balancing act between buildings and the spaces for people to interact as communities between them.

[Further details of the five schemes can be found below in the Notes to Editors.]

In recognition of their achievement they will all receive a certificate of commendation from Planning Minister Nick Boles, who himself has been at the forefront in calling for the delivery of more, high quality homes to address the nation’s acute housing shortage.

Planning Minister Nick Boles MP said: "We need to build beautiful houses that people are happy to live next door to if we are to persuade local communities to accept enough house building to meet today's urgent need and that of future generations.

"Building for Life standards show the importance of good design both of buildings and of the public realm, and the benefits it can bring for both the building industry and communities. They are an incredibly useful guide for all involved in development.

"I'm delighted to commend the first five developments that meet the revised criteria for design and quality.

Stewart Baseley, Executive Chairman of the Home Builders Federation said:

“Building for Life is an extremely useful tool. It is a unique collaboration that provides a comprehensive guide to all parties involved in housing design. Customer surveys clearly show that house builders are already delivering a high quality product that people want to buy and live in. BFL gives us a standard to benchmark our homes against and will help us ensure we are doing all we can to deliver the best possible product for home buyers.”

Pam Alexander, Design Council Trustee and Chair of the review of the Building for Life criteria by the three partners, said: These five schemes demonstrate that, as a new tool for localism, BfL 12 is already proving its value. As a framework for positive and constructive dialogue between communities, local authorities and housebuilders, the 12 new criteria describe elements of high quality design which respond to local character and deliver open, connected developments. So it helps house builders to provide badly needed new homes which are also welcome additions to their neighbourhoods.

Lord Carlile, Chairman of Design for Homes said:

“The quality mark addresses the most common complaints found in planning committee members’ postbags about new development. That's so logical when you are trying not to upset the existing community when adding to it.  Both existing and new residents will benefit from Built for Life."

Andrew Bridgen MP said: “One of the most important things each generation can do for the next is to build high quality homes that will stand the test of time. Today is about launching the new Building for Life as a quality tool based on shared objectives.

The Scheme has been developed based on concerns of residents typically found in an MPs post bag.  This ‘Building for Life’ Scheme now offers a pure process based on what people care about, privacy and private space, amenity and safety. But focusing on such fundamentals it offers a community-focussed design tool to ensure existing and new residents moving in are happy and raise minimal concerns about the impact of a new development.”

For media enquiries, or to arrange an interview, please contact Steve Turner, HBF, 020 7960 1606 / 07919 307 760 or

Notes to Editors:

Building for Life 12 (BfL12) is led by three partners’: Cabe at the Design Council, Home Builders Federation and Design for Homes, supported by Nottingham Trent University. The Design Council is a charity which enables people to use design to transform communities, business and the environment for the better. Its work places design at the heart of creating value by stimulating innovation in business and public services, improving the built environment and tackling complex social issues. The Design Council inspires new design thinking, encourages public debate and informs government policy to improve everyday life and help meet tomorrow’s challenges today. The Home Builders Federation (HBF) is the representative body of the home building industry in England and Wales. HBF’s members account for some 80% of all new homes built in England and Wales in any one year, and include companies of all sizes, ranging from multi-national, household names through regionally based businesses to small local companies: Design for Homes is a social enterprise which researches what works best for the layout, design and construction of new homes.

The 5 schemes recognised today are detailed below. All have received green lights for all 12 criteria;

Church Fields, Boston Spa – 170 houses on a greenfield site in a conservation area in North Yorkshire

Site promoter: Taylor Wimpey, planning authority Leeds City Council, consultant J R Paley Associates of Wakefield

An 8 ha site allocated by Leeds City Council in its UDP in 2006. The greenfield site is bound on north side by River Wharfe, south side by Boston Spa high street and east flank by the spa town’s substantial church and although greenfield it is almost central to the town. The detailed planning permission is very public spirited with the land, building 170 2 to 3 storey 2 to 5 bedroom houses on 5 ha at just under 35dwh per hectare and earmarking 3 ha as a public recreation space alongside the river bank (it was previously fenced off so this is new amenity). Leeds CCC had fallen behind with its plans for the site so although it is within the conservation area there was no site brief for how to deal with this. Local consultants, JR Paley of Wakefield, had to invent a strategy, devising a respectful late Georgian/early Victorian set of details for what are standard house plans from Taylor Wimpey’s range. The first 10 of these are already built and are very convincing with real stone cladding and heritage windows and a series of landscaping details that are perfectly in keeping with local architecture. The scheme is excellently located with every possible amenity on the scheme’s doorstep, such as schools and the high street. The use of locally elevated standard plans will be economic to build and be priced accordingly.

Seven Acres, Clay Farm/Great Kneighton, Cambridge – 128 houses and apartments as an early phase of a large extension to the urban boundary of the city of Cambridge

Site promoter: Homes by Skanska, planning authority Cambridge City Council, consultant Formation Architects

Clay Farm/Glebe Farm is the key development within Cambridge CC’s redrawing of its green belt where it took 328 ha of farmland alongside Addenbrookes hospital to accommodate up to 3000 new homes and schools. The masterplan was approved in 2008 and this detailed application is one of 4 to have been passed since 2011, going through both a local design review managed by the city council (one of whose members is also the author of Building for Life). The scheme is the first by Skanska, the giant Swedish construction group which has recently set out an ambition to become a leading residential developer in England.

The scheme is 128 homes on 2.79 ha of greenfield (part of a much larger masterplan), with the smallest apartments at 52 sqm and a good number of the larger family house at 276 sqm (which is well over twice the average new-build size). The scheme uses a pale Cambridge cream brick to dress a modern interpretation of Georgian England and the first houses built are comfortably contemporary with very high floor to ceiling heights, fantastic storage and very generous fenestration giving them daylighting far in excess of the British Standard. They also have sizeable terraces and balconies for private outdoor space. The scheme is built to very high environmental standards.

Starvehall Farm, Cheltenham – up to 330 homes plus an additional 60 to be provided as extra care units plus a 60-bed nursing care home on greenfield land within Cheltenham limits on land newly brought into local plan

Site promoter: Gloucestershire County Council, planning authority Cheltenham Borough Council, consultant Nash Partnership

The 12.2 ha site is mostly bound by the popular commuter village of Prestbury to the north east of Cheltenham, about 1.5 miles from the city centre. The city’s famous racecourse stands just to its north. The greenfield land was regularly considered for adoption in the local plan but was passed over for brownfield sites in the city centre. A gradual exhaustion of these sites, plus the need for the county council to find viable sites to develop after the 2008 crash meant it chose to bring the land forward itself.

One of the issues is that affordable housing in the area is very low at 8%, despite the opportunities for employment at the race course. The site has been designed to rectify this and increase supply of homes for the city’s poorly served aging population.

The scheme underwent extensive community engagement led by the County council between early 2010 and mid 2011 ending in a planning application submitted and approved over the winter of 2011/2012. To protect quality the scheme comes with a detailed design code and was regularly design reviewed by the urban design led team at Cheltenham BC. It picks up on the city’s Regency heritage but applies the homes less densely, recognising its semi-rural location.

Roussillon Park, Chichester– 252 homes on a redeveloped MOD barracks land to the north of Chichester city

Site promoter: Zero C, planning authority Chichester District Council, consultant Ben Pentreath Architects.

This scheme is further advanced than the others, having been submitted in late 2010 and passed by the planning authority in early 2011.

The scheme is unusual in that it was a barracks secured by an attractive but substantial wall in flint and brick, as is the local tradition. This has been partly retained but the development has introduced 12 pedestrian and cycle access points, added another vehicle access, and removed parts of the less well built wall to allow views east from the scheme to Graylingwell Park, the latter now a much larger residential new-built scheme with extensive amenity such as sports facilities. The Roussillon Park scheme residents will join the Community Development Trust at Graylingwell, giving them access to the facilities, while the CDT structure will give them better control over the management of the development’s common parts. The CDT has an unusually interactive website that allows new residents to join car clubs, share journeys and generally build links with neighbours in their new community.

Houses borrow both from the city’s Georgian stock, as well as its soft South Downs architecture, being formally Georgian with parapets and simple pared back detailing (there aren’t any doorcases round the doors, for example) or have traditional eaves details and a soft red Downs style brick like many cottages and houses in the area. The style is an unfussy modern take on local character.

The scheme is unusually energy efficient with a biomass district heating system.

The development has proved very popular locally both with the planning authority and with the local market with the first phase of around 50 homes already sold. There are 151 homes for sale and the 101 remaing are 51 social rent and 50 shared ownership. All homes are built to HCA’s space standards for social rented homes.

Manor Kingsway. Derby. 700 homes including an extra care facility plus shops and offices in the redevelopment of a hospital site promoted by HCA

Site promoter: Kier Partnership Homes, planning authority Derby City Council, consultant Stride Treglown Architects

The 35 ha site was previously the Manor and Kingsway Hospital. Phased re-development of up to 700 dwellings including 50 extra care, retail and commercial units. 100 dwellings in phase 1. Part of the masterplan is an arboretum, making use of established Victorian planting. The original hospital buildings used an indigenous Derby brick also to be used in new scheme, while the old hospital building contained ‘Dutch Gables’ which are reinterpreted on some buildings within the layout. Derby City Council led a collaborative team composed of project managers at the HCA, OPUN (the local design review enabler) and architects, initiating with a brief to be "Robust, Contemporary and Confident". OPUN led revisions to the original masterplan so that it became more legible with defined character areas, notably the public open space, wide tree-lined boulevards and landscaped play areas and used the new Building for Life as the heart of the design process.

Home zones and shared surfaces extensively used to give pedestrian priority. The heart of the masterplan is where the retail, apartments and extra care is located around a central public square. Buildings are unfussy, simple, well proportioned and detailed with a simple pallet of good quality materials.