Guarded welcome for landscape focus in latest housebuilding policy

New Government measures to jump-start the stalled housebuilding market with new greener neighbourhoods were met with guarded optimism this week.

Prime minister David Cameron said the aim was to mend the "broken housing market and collapse in construction from the era of top-down targets". Builders will share £1.8bn to develop 170,000 affordable homes over the next four years.

Laying the Foundations said greener neighbourhoods would make developments more acceptable, and good housing included durable landscapes. Meanwhile, a Get Britain Building fund of £400m will restart projects for 16,000 homes that stalled during the downturn. Cash raised from right-to-buy council houses will be used to build 100,000 new homes.

The Green Flag Awards were credited for benchmarking quality, as was the Neighbourhoods Green scheme that raises the profile of open spaces run by social landlords.

Neighbourhoods Green project coordinator Nicola Wheeler said: "We are pleased to see our agenda in the strategy and recognition of the importance of green space in social housing in particular.

"We want to promote Green Flag as a broadly recognised framework for evaluating quality. Only one social housing group - CityWest Homes - has Green Flag status for the green spaces it manages."

Design Council CABE head of policy and programmes Rachel Fisher said: "We are pleased there is recognition that landscape is part of what makes good design. We've been working with the National Housing Federation to promote the importance of green space in the social housing context, so it was good to see Neighbourhoods Green referenced."

Campaign to Protect Rural England policy and campaigns director Neil Sinden said the changes would allow the planning system to deliver sustainable new housing and better protection for countryside currently under threat.

But he warned the idea must not be allowed to turn into "another eco-towns disaster", with the environment and communities losing out to Government and developers forcing through projects in poorly thought-out locations.

"We will give more support for local areas that want to deliver larger-scale developments that meet the needs of growing communities," said Cameron, envisioning plots for a few hundred homes to market towns of 10,000.

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