I AGREE with David Roche (Letters, October 2) that the design of many new housing estates is poor and council officials often lack the skills to assess quality. However, I disagree that enhancing these would solve the problem, Already the development process is over-complex.

There is no reason to assume that giving more power to councils is the best way forward. Their members are not elected or staff employed because their aesthetic tastes are superior to those of others.

It is likely that had planning consent been required when they were proposed many of our most admired buildings would not exist. Most builders use well-qualified and experienced planners (often former local government staff) and architects to formulate proposals. They have much greater understanding of economics and marketing than do council personnel.

Whether they are obliged to give priority to commercial concerns is unknown. Builders say they offer what customers want and that is what these are familiar with.

When there is ongoing shortages of homes there is little incentive to innovate. The restrictions on change imposed by planning policies tend to reduce competition among builders and create an oligopoly consisting of a few large national "volume builders" which benefit from economies of scale.

In Britain the the level of self-building is far below that in most countries. Surveys show that 25 per cent of families without homes would prefer to design their own. The main obstacle is an acute shortage of plots at affordable prices. Unlike the situation in North America and Australia, there are few organisations which create and sell these. Why so is not known.

A further problem is the need to obtain detail planning consent, which can be costly and time -consuming.

In order to meet needs, increase choice and facilitate better design there should be an objective to greatly increase the supply of affordable plots for self-builders. These could start with small homes and one could expand these over time.

Designing and building a home is a valuable educational experience.

Euan Bremner,

98 West Graham Street, Glasgow.