Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Written Evidence

Memorandum by Warden Housing (CAB 04)

  I am writing regarding the forthcoming inquiry into the role and effectiveness of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE).

  I am the Development Director for Warden Housing based in Eastcote, North West London. Warden Housing is a Division of Home Group, one of the largest RSLs in the country.

  Home Group owns and manages over 46,000 homes across the country, including Scotland. Through its Divisions it provides a wide range of affordable housing, including supported housing, shared ownership and general needs. Through two subsidiaries, Paramount Homes and Home Group Developments, we are able to provide market rented accommodation and housing for sale on the open market.

  Warden own and manage over 12,000 properties in the South East of England and have a very active development programme. As one of The Housing Corporation's 71 partners, the Group are involved in a wide range of new housing projects, including two large regeneration schemes at Rayners Lane in Harrow and Dollis Valley in Barnet. On average Warden procure over 500 new homes each year both for the rented market and sales market.

  As an active organisation in the housing sector the political drive to improve the quality and design of affordable homes has presented us with a challenge. CABE have not only been instrumental in raising this need and awareness, but have provided RSLs with the necessary support and direction to address these challenges.

  Through their extensive regeneration guides, publications and training programmes, they have enabled RSLs to understand the value of good design and how it can be achieved.

  In a sector where change can be slow and difficult to achieve, we now see evidence of more RSLs procuring buildings of the very best architecture. There is without doubt a very long way to go before all RSLs are fully on board with the design agenda and at this crucial stage the role of a central organisation such as CABE is critical in ensuring full engagement.

  Warden has worked closely with CABE over the last few years on a number of initiatives. In 2002 Warden was one of two RSLs chosen to work on the Anglo-French Affordable Housing Project sponsored by CABE and The Housing Corporation. Although the project put forward by Warden did not proceed, the initiative was unique and enabled the organisation to explore best practice with another European country and exchange ideas and increase general learning and knowledge.

  In my role as Design Champion for Home Group, I approached CABE last year to enlist their assistance in promoting the design agenda throughout the organisation.

  Through one of their Enabling Projects they engaged Simon Condor Architects to co-ordinate a series of seminars which explored the big issues that will affect social architecture in the next decade and how these will affect the organisation. The seminars were led by some of the country's leading architects and issues such as Sustainable Architecture and Modern Methods of Construction were explored and discussed.

  The project has enabled the Group to consider the nature of good architectural design and its value to our customers and ultimately to explore how best, as a large provider of social housing, to procure it and protect it against conservatism and compromise.

  Finally, CABE have just agreed to assist us in a review of one of our large regeneration projects at Rayners Lane in Harrow. The first phase of this seven year programme has just been completed and having seen a number of changes to the scheme since the original Master Plan was agreed we felt it was the appropriate time to review not only the Master Plan itself but the design quality of the completed homes in phase I. The review is planned to take place in November 2004.

  We are unaware of any other organisation that provides such assistance and guidance to RSLs and to date we have found their advice and support invaluable.

S J Belk

Development Director

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