Design Council

New study reveals designs for urban housing developments which reduce crime

Press Release   •   Dec 13, 2011 17:48 GMT

Until now, there has been a lack of evidence about the relationship between the design of what are generally considered to be ‘good’ contemporary urban developments (i.e not poorly-designed 1960s or 1970s estates) and the levels of crime and anti-social behaviour experienced in and around them.

The study was run in collaboration with academics from the University of Huddersfield, working with crime reduction experts local police forces and planning authorities. It looked at a variety of developments in three areas of the country - Greater Manchester, Kent and West Midlands.

Its main findings are: 

can be a major source of neighbour disputes, anti-social behaviour, and in some cases criminal damage and assault:

-       Rear parking courts – are particularly prone to crime especially if they are large and have multiple access points, or give access to the rear of lots of dwellings

-       Garages in unusual locations – such as the rear of properties accessed via side lanes or rear access are prone to

Spacial design of the whole scheme, and keeping this consistent, is very important. Particular crime-encouraging elements to avoid include:

-       un-overlooked spaces next to boundary fences

-       corner properties, if these don’t 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’ attract dumping of unwanted goods, which can lead to antisocial behaviour such as setting fires

Perimeter security and ‘gating’ is not a substitute for good crime-lowering design
within a development:

-       using gating is not necessarily a means to secure a site. For example within a gated community, large parking courts with access to the rear of many dwellings were found to lead to higher levels of domestic burglary and car crime.

Designers need to plan for consistent and appropriately resourced management and maintenance alongside careful physical design of a scheme:

-       It is the combination of consistent physical design quality and well planned and delivered management and maintenance that appears to create the best outcome for residents' quality of life.  In extremis where both elements are absent, the
evidence from this research shows problems could quickly arise, particularly in relation to car parking with inter-neighbour disputes escalating into criminal acts of assault and criminal damage.  

Researchers conducted detailed site visits to developments to analyse and map
specific design features and layouts, examined the recorded
crime in the scheme, and interviewed neighbourhood policing teams and crime prevention advisors. 

Minister for Crime Prevention and Antisocial Behaviour Reduction Lord Henley

“Home is where we should feel safest and most secure as everyone deserves to
live in a neighbourhood free from the fear of crime.

“This research shows that thoughtful design can play a key role in helping to
reduce crime and anti-social behaviour, and make our communities safer. 
The study will help community groups, planners and developers understand what
they need to consider when building new neighbourhoods.

“The government is keen to support and encourage innovative ideas to help
reduce crime, and I am pleased to see that the building industry is playing its
part in tackling this issue.” 

The crimes the teams looked at included burglary, theft of and from vehicles,
robbery, theft from the person, assault and criminal damage.

Although the project did not set out to include anti-social behaviour or neighbour disputes in the research brief, much of the feedback from local police and planners,
particularly during site walk-arounds, showed that such incidents were more
common than actual recorded crime events and had resulted in police or local
authority resources being used to attend and resolve matters. 

Dr Rachel Armitage from the Applied Criminology Centre at the Huddersfield
University, who undertook the research, said:

“It is clear from this groundbreaking collaborative project that there are
features of individual properties, their boundaries and development layout that
act as risk and protective factors. These must be considered at all stages of
the planning and development process to minimise crime risk and maximise
quality of life. ” 

The study’s findings are being published on the Design Council Cabe website to help communities, local authority planners and developers to work together to ensure that good design and crime reduction are key considerations in future schemes.  

David Kester, Chief Executive of Design Council Cabe said:

“Communities are becoming more involved in the design of future developments
around them. This ground-breaking study helps equip them to work with
developers and planners to put good design at the heart of creating places
which are attractive, safe and successful, which has far-reaching social and
economic benefits.”

The findings of the study have already been acted upon by leading housing
developer Gleeson Homes & Regeneration, which helped advise on the research
project. Faye Whiteoak, Design & Development Director of the company

 “We welcome the research; it provides much needed clarification on the
impact of housing design upon crime and has led us to re-assess our design
values and produce our own internal security design guide.”


For more information or interview requests please contact Nigel Campbell, Head
of Communications, Design Council on 0207 420 5282 / 07825 442339 /

The Design Council CABE is a charity, incorporated by Royal Charter, that places good design at the heart of social and economic renewal.

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