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Prescott's homes plans slammed

Builders claim £60,000 housing proposal will result in poor quality

BUILDERS have attacked the Government's plans for £60,000 homes following the launch of an official design competition by regeneration agency English Partnerships last week.

Builders fear the initiative will result in lowerquality homes nobody will want to live in.

John Prescott and Gordon Brown announced the start of the 'Design for Manufacture' competition last Friday.

House builders can now apply to build on four public sector sites with the aim of constructing 1,000 homes. Further sites will be announced.

Neil Turner, managing director of Bovey Construction, said: 'It's a quick fix rather than a longterm solution. If traditional techniques are used then quality will drop but people still don't want prefabricated units.'

Rob Ashmead, chief executive of the House Builders Federation, said: 'I'd question the size, build quality and design that can be achieved.Large clusters of these low-cost homes could create a repeat of the horrid council estates of the past.

'As for the house builders, there will not be much enthusiasm for building these homes - effectively on a contract basis with tight margins - instead of market homes.'

EP hopes the scheme will be a showcase for the industry. A spokesman said: 'This competition will stimulate fresh thinking in the way we construct our homes and demonstrate how we can build more cost-effectively without sacrificing quality.'

The first four sites will be at Oxley Park in Milton Keynes, Oxford Road in Aylesbury, Upton in Northampton and Allerton Bywater Millennium Community near Leeds.Work is due to start in 2006.

Michael Martin, director of Fusion Building Systems, which will partner a yet-to-be-announced major house builder in the competition, said: 'We manufacture the materials at our base in Cork then ship them over to be assembled. It's a much more technical approach, like the motor industry, and the aim is to build a zero-defects house.

'We can be accurate to 2 mm over 8 m, resulting in a quicker, easier and better-planned fit-out, which reduces labour time.

'But, as well as being cost-effective, the homes must be of high quality and people must want to buy them.The plan is to produce as many versions as possible.'