Masterplanning, urban design and housing programmes

Enabling support for high quality urban design and advice on housing design and delivery has spread across a number of programmes and activities.

Building for Life standard and assessment methodology

In partnership with the Home Builders Federation, the Civic Trust and Design for Homes, CABE developed a national standard for good design in housing. CABE published the Building for Life criteria in 2003, detailed guidance in 2005 and a robust and replicable assessment methodology based on the standard from 2006.

Read more about Building for Life.

Building for Life assessor network

In 2008, CABE was asked by the Department for Communities and Local Government to establish a network of trained and accredited Building for Life assessors in local authorities to support planning departments to embed design quality in their processes and policies. By the end of 2010, over 500 local authority officers had been trained by CABE, of whom 330 were formally accredited as Building for Life assessors.

Read more about Building for Life assessments.

Design coding

CABE led a design coding pilot programme, with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minster and English Partnerships between 2004 and 2006. This had a significant influence on policy-makers and on the planning, urban design and architectural communities. Our work included researching the history and effectiveness of design codes and enabling support to local authorities and developers on seven pilot projects across England.

Read more about design coding in our online masterplanning guide.

Design task groups

These was an important external training and communication programme for housing and urban design practitioners. In total, 49 events were held across England, focused on the housing market renewal and housing growth programmes and on a number of key themes.

Read more about Design task group.


CABE was part of the government’s stakeholder panel during the early development of the government’s eco-towns programme (2007-8) and researched and co-wrote What makes an eco-town with Bioregional in 2008. From 2009, CABE provided enabling support to the first four eco-town authorities and worked closely with the Town and Country Planning Association as well as running design reviews.

Europan housing competition

CABE ran the UK secretariat for the European housing and urbanism competition Europan on behalf of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for two sessions between 2003 and 2008. This included bringing forward six sites for new housing throughout England. Subsequently, planning permission has been granted for winning schemes in Oldham and Harlesden. Previously, no UK scheme had been developed to this stage in the last ten years.

Read more about CABE’s work with Europan.

Housing growth

CABE’s work covered several government programmes established to encourage an increase in the delivery of new housing and best practice in quality of new development: Housing Growth Areas, Growth Area Fund 2, Growth Points (rounds 1 and 2). CABE provided advice and technical support to local authorities on 139 projects.

Read more about CABE’s work with Housing growth.

Housing market renewal

CABE developed bespoke annual support programmes for each of the nine HMR partnerships and two additional areas of low demand from 2003 to 2009, working on over 150 projects with local authorities, delivery bodies and affordable housing providers. CABE played a key national role in championing quality and offering critique on key policy issues.

Read more about CABE’s work with Housing market renewal.

Kickstart housing delivery programme

In 2009/10 CABE supported the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) by assessing the design quality of developments which had been put forward for grant support as part of a government stimulus package for the house-building industry. In total, CABE conducted Building for Life assessments for over 350 developments. Those assessments influenced HCA’s allocation of funds for the second Kickstart funding round, which saw a higher number of better quality projects receive funding.

Large-scale urban design

Between 2007 and 2010, CABE developed and ran a programme of research, dissemination and local authority support on cross-boundary spatial and design strategies – known as ‘Strategic urban design’ at that time. We convened an expert panel for eight seminars, produced an extensive literature and case study review and tested the methodology with the North Northants Joint Planning Unit. Much of the research and learning from the programme is documented in the Large-scale urban design toolkit, Getting the big picture right.

Masterplanning and place-based advice

CABE worked with clients on over 70 masterplanning projects between 2003 and 2008, advising on a variety of issues, including spatial planning, procurement, design management and delivering quality places. In 2009-10, CABE worked with the Homes and Communities Agency and its partners – primarily local authorities and those in receipt of funding for affordable housing – to respond to the new policy focus on placemaking, particularly in the areas of planning, community engagement, housing delivery and masterplanning. In all, 93 separate projects were delivered, varying from site-based advice and support, to capacity-building and local policy development.

Mixed communities initiative

CABE worked with Communities and Local Government (CLG) between 2005-2008 to support 11 pilot projects through the ‘mixed communities’ initiative.  This looked at how areas could leverage private sector funding to help them create attractive mixed income communities without the need for government subsidy. CABE worked with the local authorities and new deal for communities organisations helping them on masterplanning, community engagement and PFI procurement for their area based regeneration projects.  CABE’s assistance to the pilots was deemed as the most positive from all the technical support offered; as noted by an independent CLG evaluation of the programme.

Rural masterplanning

CABE worked with DEFRA, CLG and the Homes and Communities Agency to assess bids to the Rural Masterplanning Fund in 2009, established in response to the Taylor Review, Living, Working Countryside. We provided enabling support to 32 of the local authorities successful in securing funding. This included: helping authorities assess and understand their housing and development needs; creating tools to respond to rural issues and deliver quality; and design training for planners, elected members, parish councils and other community representatives.

Thames Gateway

CABE was asked by the CLG in 2005 to explore the character and identity of the Thames Gateway – a project that was received with enthusiasm by many Thames Gateway leaders. This led to the publication of New things happen. CABE then worked with local authorities and delivery bodies on a further programme that included developing a design pact and conducting a Building for Life review of planning applications.

Read more about CABE’s work with the Thames Gateway.