Negative perceptions could blight sustainable communities plan

Plans to build genuinely mixed sustainable communities in the Thames Gateway could well be blighted by the fact that many people have negative perceptions of new build homes in large developments.

New research, from the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) shows that people on higher and lower incomes want different things from a new home and that planners will find it difficult to create genuinely mixed communities.

A series of focus groups and interviews revealed that corner shops and local facilities, such as being able to buy a pint of milk late at night, are the most common desires for people moving into new homes. In addition, people wanted schools and nurseries within walking distance, nearby doctor’s surgeries and good transport links.

Jim Bennett, Senior Research Fellow for IPPR said: “Although people want to live in housing which is affordable, they certainly don’t want to live in something called “affordable housing”. People are put off by the idea of standardised developments, without access to local community services or communal green space. Attracting a social mix of people into the Thames Gateway developments remains a big challenge because of these negative perceptions.”

According to the research, people see new build homes in large developments as monotonous and characterless, designed purely to minimise costs. Their main worries are thin walls and floors, small rooms, and poor quality finishing.

These concerns were linked into an overarching suspicion of house builders and the feeling that house builders were unlikely to do anything other than the bare minimum necessary to make a property saleable.

Meanwhile, higher income groups – between £40,000 and £80,000 – prioritised fast transport connections with central London and places with a cultural heritage. They were the least likely to consider living in mixed tenure developments.

IPPR suggests the research highlights the need for planners and developers to understand the housing aspirations of people that are likely to live in the gateway and to invest in transport infrastructure, community and cultural facilities, and to maximise the use of planning powers to ensure high standards of housing and neighbourhood design.

David Hopkins

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