Recently the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment have issued a report on reducing crime in high-density housing developments through design. The authors of the report claim to have provided proof that there is a link between the design of 'good' urban developments and reduced amounts of crime and anti-social behaviour experienced by residents.

The report was commissioned from CABE by the The Home Office, an established promoter of designing for crime prevention. The design Council worked closely with academics from the University of Huddersfield to explore a range of projects from across the United Kingdom.

Many of the traditionally assumed culprits were evident, and the most unwanted design features included parking to the rear and multiple entries and badly positioned garages.

The document states that 'spatial design needs to be consistent across the whole development', with crime-encouraging elements to avoid including the following:

  • un-overlooked spaces next to boundary fences
  • corner properties, if these do not provide adequate overlooks to both streets
  • exposed backs or rear access to properties
  • public paths and other access at the rear of properties, or at the side if not overlooked properly
  • 'dead spaces' that can attract dumping of unwanted goods

The study criticizes perimeter fencing and 'gated communities' as a means of creating a secure development or as a replacement for good design. It quotes an example where badly designed parking areas in one development were found to be linked with higher levels of robbery and vehicular crime.

Design Council Chief Executive David Kester said that the study would equip local communities that are becoming more involved in the design of developments to work with developers and planners. Gleeson Homes & Regeneration, which helped advise on the project, says it has already re-assessed its design values with regard to security and has produced its own internal security design guide as a result.

The study, Creating safe places to live through design, which includes six case studies, is available to download from Design Council CABE's Localism and Planning resource.